Altuve hits 3 homers as Astros roll in Game 1
HOUSTON — Presented a lengthy, rhetorical question seeking perspective on his historic three-homer game, Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve responded with a simplicity matching his successful approach at the plate, cutting to the chase with a one-word answer that succinctly summarized if he previously enjoyed such an incredible, singular performance in his career.
“Never,” Altuve said.
Altuve recorded the 10th three-homer game in postseason history as the Astros jumped on Cy Young Award contender Chris Sale to claim an 8-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday at Minute Maid Park in Game 1 of an American League Division Series.
Altuve (3-for-4, three RBIs) became the first player in franchise history and the ninth overall to homer three times in a postseason game, doing so twice off Sale (0-1).
The five-time All-Star, MVP candidate and three-time batting champion followed a solo shot from Alex Bregman in the first inning with his own solo homer, staking Houston to a 2-0 lead.
Altuve hit a two-out solo home run off Sale in the fifth and a leadoff dinger against Boston right-handed reliever Austin Maddox in the seventh.
He etched his name alongside players such as Babe Ruth, who accomplished the feat twice, Albert Pujols, George Brett and Reggie Jackson. When pressed further, Altuve expressed mild shock.
“I couldn’t believe any of my homers,” Altuve said. “I hit one and I was like, ‘Wow!’ And the second one was like, ‘Wow, what’s going on here?’ (After the third homer), oh, I don’t know. I got to wake up.”
The Astros grabbed a 1-0 series lead by socking four home runs overall while getting two-RBI hits from Marwin Gonzalez and Brian McCann.
Sale, making his first career postseason start, was shaky throughout his five-plus innings. He surrendered nine hits and one walk and was charged with seven runs while striking out six.
Gonzalez drove home Evan Gattis and Josh Reddick with his two-out double in the fourth. Gattis and Reddick reached in succession to chase Sale in the bottom of the sixth.
“It sucks,” said Sale, who threw 100 pitches. “Never really gave my team a chance to win. Put them in a hole early. They fought back and they fought back hard, and I gave it right back to them. It happens. Terrible time for it to happen.”
Said Red Sox manager John Farrell: “Any time he mis-located, particularly in the middle of the plate, they made him pay for it.”
Astros right-hander Justin Verlander (1-0) labored following a quick start, coughing up a 2-0 lead before rallying to a strong finish. Verlander needed 79 pitches to complete four innings, having surrendered a two-out single to Sandy Leon in the second inning and a sacrifice fly to Rafael Devers that scored Mookie Betts in the fourth.
However, Verlander tossed just 20 pitches total in the fifth and sixth, aided in the former frame by an inning-ending double play off the bat of Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi. Verlander then retired the side in order in the sixth to complete his outing having allowed two runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts. He earned his eighth career postseason victory.
“I got to give a lot of credit to (catcher) McCann,” Verlander said. “We have been working really hard on my changeup and was able to execute a good one there and get a double play. I turn around and I’m pretty fired up and I see Mac jumping up and down, too. He was just as fired up as I was.”
NOTES: Red Sox DH Eduardo Nunez was lost to a right knee injury in the first inning, pulling up lame running out a ground ball. Nunez had played in just one game since Sept. 9 due to his balky knee. After the game, Boston replaced him on the roster with OF Chris Young, meaning Nunez wouldn’t appear in the AL Championship Series if the Red Sox advance. ... Astros manager A.J. Hinch remains undecided on the role for RHP Lance McCullers, whose injury-marred second half limited him to six starts following the break. RHPs Brad Peacock and Charlie Morton outperformed McCullers as starters, thus McCullers could be used out of the bullpen. ... Boston RHP Austin Maddox earned an ALDS roster spot over RHP Matt Barnes. ... With 2B Dustin Pedroia and 3B Nunez hobbled, the Red Sox opted to keep an extra infielder (Deven Marrero) on their ALDS roster.