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ALCS: Astros Rolling Whilst Jose Altuve Struggles


A day before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Astros Manager Dusty Baker asked Astros fans to lean on the next power in hopes of ending Jose Altuve’s slump.

“I just urge the people, the fans here, to place him of their prayers and elevate him to the extent that he’s used to being at,” Baker said when asked about Altuve, his struggling second baseman.

Perhaps some fans followed Baker’s directive, as Altuve poked a double to right off Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ ace, in a 5-0 Astros win on Saturday. The victory gave Houston a 3-0 lead within the A.L.C.S. and put Recent York on the point of elimination with Game 4 scheduled for Sunday night at Yankee Stadium.

It gave Altuve one hit — total — in six games this postseason.

The hit snapped an 0-for-25 stretch, which was the longest hitless streak by a batter to start a postseason. Known for his production in Octobers past — Altuve’s 23 postseason home runs are second on the profession list — he was silent against the Seattle Mariners in a division series and has struggled against the Yankees as well. Overall he’s 1 for 28.

Altuve’s only offensive contributions before Saturday’s double had been a pair of walks and one run scored — he has struck out 10 times. It has been an especially jarring slump after Altuve closed the regular season by hitting .444 over his last 14 games.

“It feels good,” Altuve said of his double. “I can refresh my mind.”

Added Baker: “While you get successful once you’re 0-for-something, any knock is great.”

The struggles usually are not limited to Altuve. Yordan Alvarez, Houston’s designated hitter, hit two lead-changing home runs within the division series round, including a three-run walk-off in Game 1, but he’s 1 for 10 with six strikeouts against the Yankees. Right fielder Kyle Tucker, who slugged 30 home runs throughout the regular season, can be 1 for 10 against the Yankees.

And yet, the mighty Astros keep winning.

On Saturday, it was Houston’s No. 9 hitter, Chas McCormick, who put the Astros on the board first with a two-run homer off Cole. McCormick, who hit .245 this season, also homered in Game 1 of the A.L.C.S.

“It just talks about how good we’re. It’s talks about our team. We’re a whole team and we’re team oriented,” the outfielder said when asked about winning without major contributions from some household names. “When the underside of the order gets going, we’re a very hard team to beat.”

Excellent starting pitching — and star third baseman Alex Bregman’s three-run homer in Game 2 — has also helped Houston overcome a few of its best hitters’ offensive woes. Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier have allowed a combined one earned run against the Yankees, whose own lineup is flailing from top to bottom.

The Yankees have struck out 41 times through three A.L.C.S. games, they usually had only three hits in Game 3. Two of those hits were singles within the ninth inning, when the club was already down by five runs.

“That’s why we’re such a special team, because we now have so many good pitchers on the staff,” McCormick said. “It’s a lot fun to play behind them. They pound the zone they usually’re nasty. I’m just glad I’m not facing our arms.”

While a number of the Astros’ top offensive threats is probably not on their A-games straight away, every other aspect of the roster appears to be clicking with Houston one win away from reaching its second consecutive World Series.

So long as the team keeps winning, Altuve and company won’t fret about their personal stats.

“That tells you loads concerning the team we now have,” Altuve said of Houston’s ability to win despite some poor individual performances. He then rattled off an inventory of his teammates’ accomplishments this series. “It looks like every night’s a unique guy, and it tells you the way good this lineup could be sometimes.”

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