Come to think of it, it's been awhile since we've seen Jose Altuve play like the guy who won the 2017 MVP Award. He hasn't been terrible but he hasn't delivered the clutch hit he so often did the previous year.
Altuve: Back in the clutch
(c) Associated Press
Until Tuesday night when it really mattered, that is. The Littlest Astro poked a 1-2 pitch from Jose Alvarez down the left field line for a bases-clearing double that keyed a 5-3 comeback win in Anaheim that vaulted Houston back into first in the AL West.
Jamie Barria was treating the Astros like many starting pitchers have of late, limiting the Champs to just four hits and one run over seven innings while fanning seven. The lone tally came in the fourth when Alex Bregman singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and came home on a base hit by Brian McCann.
Anaheim had touched Gerrit Cole for two runs in the first on a homer by Justin Upton and a solo shot in the fifth by Rene Rivera.
The arm of Josh Reddick kept it close, throwing out Mike Trout in the fifth to squelch a rally then gunning down Ian Kinsler at the plate in the seventh to keep the deficit at 3-1.
With Barria's night mercifully over, the bats went to work on Alvarez. Reddick started the comeback with a double past Trout. Pinch-hitter Yuli Gurriel then singled to right. Wary of Kole Calhoun's arm from the night before, Reddick was held to third.
George Springer flied out to Calhoun then Bregman walked to load the bases. Altuve, who had a short single in the sixth, then dumped the big hit of the night that put Houston ahead, 4-3. With Cam Bedrosian replacing Alvarez, Altuve was thrown out at home trying to score on Carlos Correa's bouncer to second baseman Kinsler.
The beneficiary of the sudden offensive surge was Collin McHugh. Cole lasted just five innings after giving up three runs on five hits and a walk. The Forgotten Man worked two innings and received relief help from Will Harris and Ken Giles to post his first win of the season. Giles notched his sixth save.
Meanwhile, the Astros added an insurance run thanks to a pair of Halo misplays in the ninth. Marwin Gonzalez scored when Jim Johnson took his eye off Albert Pujols' flip to first as the pitcher dropped the easy throw while trying to find the base.
Most of the game was played with three umpires as home plate arbiter Fieldin Culbreth was KO'd by a foul ball off his face mask. DH Shohei Ohtani whacked at a 99-mph fastball from Cole that smacked Culbreth square in the coconut. C.B. Bucknor took over behind the plate.
There was no word if the wobbly ump would be back for Wednesday's series finale to watch Justin Verlander (4-2) challenge Garrett Richards (4-1) in the 8:40 pm Central rubber game. An Astros win evens the season series at three apiece. A Houston loss puts the Angels back in front of the West by percentage points. The Astros will get a travel day on Thursday to dwell over it.
- Bob Hulsey