The Houston Astros are back in the World Series for the second time in three seasons, and it was no surprise that Jose Altuve struck the winning blow.
Altuve hammered a slider from Aroldis Chapman off the facade in left field in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS, a two-run walk-off home run that sent Minute Maid Park into a frenzy.
At 5’6, Altuve is the shortest player in the majors — tied with his former teammate Tony Kemp — but in big moments for the Astros he always looms large.
Altuve is a career .287/.354/.552 hitter in the postseason, with 13 home runs, 28 RBI and 34 runs scored in 43 games. Over 162 games, that’s a pace of 49 homers, 105 RBI, and 128 runs scored. This postseason he’s at .349/.417/.767 with five home runs in 11 games, including capturing ALCS MVP honors.
El pequeño gigante — as the Fox Deportes call of the home run described Altuve — indeed.
It’s only fitting that Altuve is the hero since he’s been through the extremes with the Astros. He made his major league debut in 2011, the first of three consecutive 100-loss seasons for Houston, who redefined tanking before building a juggernaut. Now Altuve is a key cog in three consecutive 100-win seasons for the Astros.
What a journey it’s been.
Altuve signed with the Astros out of Venezuela in 2007, a few months shy of his 17th birthday. Though he hit just about everywhere in the minors, he never made any national top-100 prospect lists. Even getting signed was an arduous process because of his diminutive stature.
An early fan of Altuve’s was Kevin Goldstein, then of Baseball Prospectus (and now in the Astros front office, coincidentally enough). Goldstein even dubbed Altuve the official prospect of “Up and In,” the wonderful podcast he co-hosted with Jason Parks. Altuve, then a 21-year-old in Class-A, was a guest on the show in May 2011, explaining how teams overlooked him as an amateur.
“I went to a lot of tryouts with different teams. Some of them told me I’m good, but said they weren’t sure, and would have to come back and see me again,” Altuve said. “Maybe they don’t like me, some other teams did. That happened a lot.
“I’m short, but I know I can play. I want to prove to everybody that short guys can play, too.”
Two months later, Altuve was in the majors.
Altuve has proven his worth over and over again over the last eight years. He made six All-Star teams, won three batting titles, topped 200 hits four straight years, leads the majors in hits since his debut, and even won the AL MVP in 2017.
And now he has his signature moment, which couldn’t be more perfect.
“He’s turned himself into a star in his career here, and yet he’s remained humble, he’s remained hungry. He’s driven. He’s engaging with his teammates,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of his second baseman. “It’s the same old quote of: Everything that’s right about the Astros is Jose Altuve.”