Bohls: Altuve walks off with MVP after walk-off homer
HOUSTON - The Astros' incredible post-season run continues.
Thanks to a clutch walk-off homer in the ninth.
And from a guy who could barely walk, much less run this time in last October's playoffs.
On Saturday night, however, a fully healthy Jose Altuve crushed a pitch off closer Aroldis Chapman for a two-run bomb to break a tie game for a 6-4 Houston victory over the New York Yankees, clinching the American League pennant. His late-game dramatics propelled the Astros to the World Series for the second time in three seasons and a Tuesday starting date against the Washington Nationals.
"Yeah, I wasn't 100% last year," Altuve admitted, his dark pennant T-shirt still soaked from champagne sprayed in the raucous locker room. "I just got surgery right after the season. It's important to be 100% because I feel I'm a good player."
That much is assured. One of the smallest players in the majors, the 5-6 second baseman has big game, and it showed because the ALCS MVP hit .348 with two homers, three RBIs and a team-high six runs. He had a solo home run in the first inning of Game 3 to help lift the Astros to a 4-1 win in New York.
Altuve's success was all the more remarkable given the fact he and Michael Brantley (.304) were the only two who hit above .250 against the Yankees. In fact, six of Houston's regulars hit .182 or worse. Alex Bregman, Houston's serious regular-season MVP candidate, didn't even have an RBI in the ALCS until a Game 6 forceout drove in a run.
But Altuve, who also had a double in the first before Yuli Gurriel's three-run homer staked Houston to a 3-0 lead, was magical.
"I get asked to describe Jose Altuve all the time," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I think 'MVP' is what he is."
The selfless Altuve, however, had other ideas.
He called his teammates a bunch of MVPs.
In no particular order, he mentioned the headfirst, diving defensive gems of corner outfielders Josh Reddick and Brantley that snuffed out two Yankee rallies. "That stopped their momentum," Altuve said.
He listed the battery of seven relievers who paraded to the mound in Game 6 and struck out 11 batters, front-end pitchers like emerging star Jose Urquidy and little-used Brad Peacock, who'd thrown eight pitches in this series and started Saturday, and the reliable Ryan Pressley, who got a big rally-ending out before hurting his knee.
He saved some of his best love for George Springer, who walked with two outs in the ninth to bring Altuve to the plate.
"Springer's walk was the key," Altuve said. "It created some momentum and put a lot of pressure on the other team."
The Yankees had been feeling that stress almost from the moment they fell to the Astros 3-2 in 11 innings, the first of three consecutive victories by the team with the most wins in baseball this season.
From the very outset, this was a bizarre deciding game of this American League Championship Series that played out as a battle of the bullpens eventually climaxed with failures by two of the best closers in the game.
So many less-heralded relievers delivered excellent performances, keeping at bay two of the most prolific offenses in baseball. Consider that the losing team in these six games scored zero, two (in 11 innings), one, three, one and four runs. That's dominant pitching.
But in Game 6, it was the normally reliable Roberto Osuna, who gave up a two-run, game-tying home run to Yankees star D.J. LeMahieu in the first row of the right field seats after an 11-pitch battle in the top of the ninth. Then Altuve took deep the impressive Chapman, who had allowed only three homers all season.
"I thought Chappy hung a pitch," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, "and a great player got him."
Simple as that as Altuve banged his deep fly off the left-center field facade to set off the wild celebration. He was mobbed by his teammates as he crossed home plate.
"I've talked about how great this guy is, and he continues to exceed expectations," Hinch said. "It's not easy to deliver the way he does. He's turned himself into a star in his career here, and yet he's remained humble. He's remained hungry."
Fittingly, it was the heroics by Altuve and five outs at the start out of Peacock because they are the only players left from that Houston team that lost 111 games just a few years ago.
But it was a complete team effort by the most dominant club in baseball and one of the most versatile.
It will be far from a formality that the Astros will cruise past the Nationals in the World Series. After all, Washington swept St. Louis, if memory serves, about a month ago. The Nationals have their own formidable pitching and considerable momentum as well.
But Houston will have home-field advantage throughout. They will have a rested Gerrit Cole, the best pitcher in baseball whom Hinch had saved for a potential Game 7 against the Yankees. And they'll have Altuve, pound for pound maybe the best player in the game.
"He's the face of this organization," Osuna said. "He does everything for us."
More News in Sports
Oct. 19, 2019, 7:45 p.m. ET Right Now It will be a bullpen game for both teams - neither will have a true starter on the mound - as the Yankees try to force
SANDY, Utah - Jefferson Savarino scored in the 87th minute and Real Salt Lake beat the Portland Timbers 2-1 in the first round of the MLS playoffs Saturday night. Real Salt Lake advanced to play
SACRAMENTO - For a second straight week Sacramento State knocked off a Top 10 team from Montana, handing the No. 5 Montana Grizzlies their first Big Sky conference loss of the season 49-22. The Grizzlies
A late game-winner from Jefferson Savarino propelled Real Salt Lake to the next round of the MLS playoffs and sent the Portland Timbers home to start their offseason. In a back-and-forth game Saturday that saw
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke leads the Rebels on the field. Saturday, 6:30 p.m. CT, Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Mis s. Television: SEC NetworkTom Hart, play-by-playJordan Rogers, AnalystCole Cubelic, Sideline analyst Local Radio: Ole Miss IMG NetworkDavid
It was a tale of two halves, as Real Salt Lake dominated the Portland Timbers in the opening 45 minutes of their Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Round One clash on Saturday, the Timbers balancing