‘Little giant’ Jose Altuve’s ninth-inning 3-run homer keeps Houston one win away from WS

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, 33, is a “little giant.

Altuve, who stands at 5-foot-11, 168 pounds, hit a game-winning home run in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the ALCS on Nov. 21 to move into second place on the postseason home run qnans. The most is Manny Ramirez’s 29. Houston is one win away from advancing to the World Series and could challenge Ramirez’s record.

In 2017, the diminutive Altuve won the American League MVP award over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge. At the time, Altuve’s story of coming up through the ranks at a Venezuelan baseball camp in Houston and making his major league debut was heartwarming.

When he tried out for the team at age 16, Houston officials took one look at his small frame and sent him home, suspecting he had lied about his birth. False birth certificates for Latin American players were a problem in MLB at the time. But his father brought his birth certificate to the test the next day and signed him to a $5,000 contract.

He started in the minor leagues in 2007 and made his big league debut on July 20, 2011. He was an All-Star (eight times), a Silver Slugger (six times), a Gold Glove (once), and a National League MVP, but his Cinderella story was quickly overshadowed after the 2017 season when he was caught stealing autographs. Along with shortstop Carlos Correa (Minnesota Twins), he became public enemy number one, except for Houston fans. He was booed at every away game.

But the awl in his pocket sticks out. After the autograph stealing, he was a three-time All-Star and a two-time Silver Slugger. The team made the postseason every year. Houston has reached the championship game an American League-high seven years in a row. In 2022, they reached their second World Series pinnacle. Altuve’s bat was still hot.

In Game 5 at Globe Life Field on Nov. 21, Altuve’s game-winning three-run homer gave Houston a 5-4 victory to take the series 3-2 and advance to the WS for the second straight year.

After two losses at home and two wins on the road to even the series at 2-2, the momentum in Game 5 was with the home team, the Rangers. Trailing 1-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Cuban connection Adolis Garcia hit a first pitch off Houston starter Justin Verlander to make it a 4-2 game.

With the bases loaded in the top of the eighth, manager Bruce Bochy turned to Jose Rucklach for a four-out save. One out later in the bottom of the eighth, Houston reliever Brian Abreu threw a 160-mph fastball to Garcia, who had homered in the sixth inning, that was hit to the body and spun into the bench clearing.

Umpire Marvin Hudson ejected Houston manager Dusty Baker, Abreu and Texas Garcia. The bench-clearing would prove to be toxic for Texas and closer Rucklack as the game wore on. With a chilled shoulder in the dugout, Rucker gave up a leadoff single to Yoenis Diaz and a walk to John Singleton before a changeup to Altuve with runners on first and second led to a game-tying three-run homer. It turned the game from 4-2 to 5-4.

Houston brought in closer Ryan Presley in the eighth inning after Abreu was ejected. Baker brought in Presley to prevent any more runs. Had the game not been tied in the top of the ninth, Presley would have pitched one inning. Instead, he pitched two innings to close out the game with the win. 짱구카지노

The defense helped, especially in the bottom of the ninth. After back-to-back singles by leadoff hitter Mitch Garber and Jonah Heim put runners on first and second with nobody out, shortstop Gregg Kessinger, who came in to pinch-hit for top hitter Marcus Simien, made a timely jumping catch to end the threat.

Strong on the road and weak at home, it will be interesting to see if Houston can break that formula in Games 6 and 7. The ALCS has yet to be won by a home team.