Despite being one of the best hitters in the game, Houston Astros’ second baseman José Altuve has never gotten the national hype that he deserves, at least not until this season, where he’s consistently been the frontrunner for American League MVP. Thankfully, the 5’6″ Venezuelan is finally announcing his national arrival on the big stage. After his 3-home run outing in Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series against Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, even the most casual of baseball fans should be paying attention to Altuve.
The 27-year-old from Maracay took Sale–the Red Sox’s best pitcher and a Cy Young candidate–deep twice, before adding a third off of reliever Austin Maddox en route to an Astros 8-2 victory. He became the first Astros player to hit three homers in one game since 2007–when Carlos Lee did it in the regular season–and also became just the ninth player ever to hit three home runs in a postseason game.
Altuve isn’t your run of the mill baseball player. He’s been overlooked because of his size and quiet nature, but his skills are larger-than-life. With the AL MVP award possibly coming his way soon, he may finally become a household name. Altuve led the American League in batting average (.346), hits (204), and the Baseball-Reference.com version of WAR (8.4). According to Elias Sports Bureau, Altuve became the first player in history to lead either league outright in hits in four consecutive seasons.
He did this leading the Astros to an AL West title and a 101-61 record, second-best in the league. Now, the club has their sights set on their first World Series title, and their Venezuelan sparkplug will be key to that pursuit.
If it wasn’t for New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge’s captivating season, Altuve would be the clear shoe-in for the MVP. He finished third in the voting last season behind Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, and with Trout missing significant time this season, the door opened up for a new winner. Regardless of what happens with the MVP trophy, however, Altuve and his hard-hitting Astros have another kind trophy in mind this October. Judging by his Game 2 performance through 3 innings (2 hits, a run, and an RBI), Altuve is up to the challenge.