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 double, sparking the Houston Astros to a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night to even the Fall Classic.
The 2017 AL MVP had been curiously quiet this month, opening the playoffs with a career-worst 0-for-25 slump and entering Game 2 a paltry 4 for 37 this postseason.
He nearly matched that hit total by the seventh inning Saturday.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel really good. Timing, confidence, everything was there tonight. Hopefully I keep going.”
The three-time batting champion was back in top form from the first pitch, smacking an offering from Zack Wheeler for a double to left field. He scored soon after that when Jeremy Peña, also swinging at the first pitch, followed with a double to send him home in a three-run inning.
Yordan Alvarez hit a third straight double after the ones by Altuve and Peña to make the Astros the first team in MLB history to open a World Series with three extra-base hits.
He singled in the fifth and then showed off his preternatural bat-to-ball skills in the seventh, slashing at a fastball thrown forehead-high for another single.
The last one had the 5-foot-6 sparkplug chuckling after reaching first base.
Houston was happy to see that smile. Manager Dusty Baker was asked before Saturday’s game if he could sense frustration with Altuve as he struggled at the plate.
“He can’t be happy, but he’s happy that we’re winning,” Baker said. “He might be the strongest dude in this building mentally. He’s probably had to be most of his life. So, I just know that any minute now, he’s one hit away from a hot streak.”
Despite Altuve’s struggles, the Astros have been nearly unstoppable this October. They swept their way through the Division Series and Championship Series, and Friday’s defeat was their first since Oct. 3.
“I think the boys made it a lot easier because we’ve been winning,” Altuve said.
It was a long-awaited sight for Astros fans who have come to expect big playoff performances from the little second baseman. Altuve ranks first in playoff franchise history with 99 hits and 23 homers, which are the second-most in MLB history behind Manny Ramirez (29).
Things weren’t completely smooth for Altuve on Saturday. There was a runner on first with two outs in the eighth when J.T. Realmuto hit a grounder that Peña fielded. Altuve ducked and turned away, thinking Peña was throwing to first. Instead, Peña tried flipping the ball to Altuve, and it rolled away to allow both runners to be safe. Peña was charged with an error.
It didn’t matter much, as Bryce Harper hit a pop fly to end the inning.