Altuve bursts with 3 hits as Astros even World Series

HOUSTON (AP) — For the first time in a sluggish postseason, Jose Altuve looked like himself in Game 2 of the World Series.

Altuve had three hits, including a brace, propelling the Houston Astros to a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night to tie the Fall Classic.

The 2017 AL MVP had been curiously quiet this month, opening the playoffs with a worst 0-for-25 drop and entering Game 2 with a paltry 4-for-37 this postseason.

He nearly matched that hit total in the seventh inning on Saturday.

“I feel good,” he said. “I feel really good. Timing, confidence, everything was there tonight. I hope I will continue.”

The three-time batting champion was back in full form on the first pitch, hitting an offering from Zack Wheeler for a double to left field. He scored soon after when Jeremy Peña, who was also swinging on the first pitch, followed with a double to send it home in a three-run inning.

Yordan Alvarez hit a third straight double after Altuve and Peña to make the Astros the first team in MLB history to open a World Series with three extra hits.

He singled out a single in the fifth, then showed off his uncanny batting skills in the seventh, clipping a high-fronted fastball thrown for another single.

The last had the 5-foot-6 Spark Plug laughing after reaching first base.

Houston was happy to see that smile. Manager Dusty Baker was asked before Saturday’s game if he might feel any frustration with Altuve as he struggled at home plate.

“He can’t be happy, but he’s happy we won,” Baker said. “He might be the strongest guy in this building mentally. He probably must have spent most of his life. So I just know that anytime now he’s one shot away from a hot streak.

Despite Altuve’s struggles, the Astros were nearly unstoppable in October. They battled their way through the Division Series and Championship Series, and Friday’s loss was their first since Oct. 3.

“I think the boys made it a lot easier because we won,” Altuve said.

It was a long-awaited spectacle for Astros fans who expect big playoff performances from the small second baseman. Altuve ranks first in franchise playoff history with 99 hits and 23 home runs, which are second in MLB history behind Manny Ramirez (29).

Things weren’t quite smooth for Altuve on Saturday. There was a runner-first with two out in the eighth when JT Realmuto hit a grounder that Peña fielded. Altuve ducked and turned away, thinking Peña threw first. Instead, Peña tried to return the ball to Altuve, and he rolled to allow both runners to safety. Peña was accused of a mistake.

It didn’t matter much, as Bryce Harper hit a pop fly to end the inning.

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