Jose Altuve is having an MVP-caliber season for the Houston Astros.
The American League’s leading hitter will look to keep it going in game three of a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins when the teams play on Wednesday night at Target Field.
Altuve had four hits in Tuesday’s 7-5 victory, one day after seeing his consecutive streak of 202 games played snapped with a day off in a loss on Monday.
“He looked refreshed,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “I don’t think he ever has too much of a bad day. He came out with some fresh legs and the normal swing that he has. He’s just continuing the remarkable season and doing everything you can ask out of a player.”
All four of Altuve’s hits on Tuesday were singles; and a couple of those were jam shots. But when you’re hot, you’re hot and Altuve has been on fire for the better part of the last three months.
Altuve is hitting .398 in 65 games since May 26 and an incredible .493 in 38 road games since May 1.
“You just try to throw it up there, make a good pitch and hopefully he hits it toward somebody,” said Twins pitcher Hector Santiago, who took the loss on Tuesday. “Every time he hits the ball, it’s somewhere where nobody is not. He always just seems to find a hole.”
It’s an attitude most pitchers have had regarding Altuve this season.
“You literally can’t do anything else,” Santiago said. “You get ahead in counts, put him in situations where the pressure is on him and he just seems to find the hole. He’s one of the best hitters, obviously the best hitter right now, you just try to bear with it and minimize the damage.”
The job of minimizing for the Twins will be that of Ervin Santana on Wednesday. If any pitcher can slow down Altuve, it’s Santana, who has posted a 2.05 ERA over his last nine starts since mid-June.
Santana is 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA in four career starts against the Astros.
Houston will turn to left-hander Dallas Keuchel, who will try and build the Astros first winning streak in two weeks.
In nine starts since July 18, Keuchel has had just one clunker in which he allowed seven runs in five innings against Detroit on July 31. He rebounded with a complete game shutout his last time out against Texas, allowing just five men to reach base while striking out seven.
Keuchel was roughed up for five runs on seven hits and five walks in a loss to Minnesota on May 2 at Minute Maid Park.