MLB

Houston is headed to Hollywood! Altuve's Astros blank Yanks in Game 7

HOUSTON — If being the best hitter in baseball wasn’t enough for Jose Altuve, he can now add another title to his MVP-worthy résumé: closer.

With the Houston Astros needing to win both Games 6 and 7 to move on to the World Series for only the second time in franchise history, their All-Star second baseman made sure they sealed the deal. Altuve notched three hits, including two home runs, in the final two games, with his solo shot in the fifth inning of Game 7 on Saturday night spurring a 4-0 victory over the New York Yankees and a celebration at Minute Maid Park.

“He’s the best hitter I’ve ever seen,” Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said after Game 6, and he might as well play that same comment on a loop after almost every game.

There were plenty of Game 7 heroes for the Astros, who are back in the World Series for the first time in 12 years and heading to Hollywood to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 Tuesday night.

  • Right-hander Charlie Morton tossed five scoreless innings in the biggest start of his career, and starter-turned-reliever Lance McCullers Jr. blanked the Yanks thereafter.

  • Third baseman Alex Bregman made a strong throw to the plate, and catcher Brian McCann held the ball despite Greg Bird‘s feet-first slide into his mitt to cut down a run in the fifth inning.

  • McCann, the former Yankees catcher whose $ 17 million salary is being paid in part by New York as a condition of a trade last November, notched a two-run single in the fifth inning after collecting an RBI on a big ground-rule double in Game 6.

As usual, though, the Astros were led by Altuve, the 5-foot-5 engine of the most prolific offense in baseball since the 2009 Yankees.

In Game 7, Altuve’s big hit came in the fifth inning. He ripped a line drive that sent Yankees right fielder and MVP candidate Aaron Judge back to the wall. Judge, who robbed Yuli Gurriel of a home run in the second inning, wasn’t going to bring this one back, but Altuve couldn’t be sure. Judge is 6-foot-7, after all.

So, Altuve sprinted down the first-base line, bat in hand. And when the ball cleared the fence, he flipped his bat toward the first-base coach’s box, where it was finally retrieved by a bat boy.

Like the rest of the Astros’ offense, Altuve went ice cold in the middle three games of the series. He went 0-for-New York, as the Astros lost three games in a row for the first time in more than a month. And after his first two at-bats of Game 6, Altuve’s hitless streak had grown to 0-for-12.

But in his final six plate appearances of the series, beginning in the fifth inning of Game 6, he went two-run single, homer, groundout, walk, homer, strikeout.

Case closed. Astros win.

“[He’s] the best hitter on the planet, and I think he had three days in New York without hitting — whatever,” Correa said. “I knew he was going to come back.”

And bring the Astros back with him.

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