Astros’ 5-foot-5 hitting machine Jose Altuve goes 4-for-5, now batting .377 at age 21

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Houston’s offense is one of the most improved in baseball and sophomore second baseman Jose Altuve is a big reason why. He came into today hitting .344 with a .918 OPS and notched four more hits in a 7-5 victory over the Brewers.

Altuve is a really fun player to watch because he’s 5-foot-5 (on a good day), rarely walks, has very little power, and reached the majors last season after playing just 35 games above Single-A. And through 75 games as a big leaguer he’s batted an even .300 with 87 hits.

That’s a ton of hits, in part due to the .300 batting average and in part due to his hitting near the top of the lineup while rarely passing up hits to draw walks, but Altuve notching 87 hits in his first 75 career games is also a reminder of just how amazing Ichiro Suzuki was as a rookie in 2001. That year Suzuki had an MLB-record 120 hits through 75 games. Seriously.

As for today’s game, Altuve joins some pretty good company in notching a four-hit game before his 22nd birthday (which is next month). During the past five years the only other players to do so were Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Starlin Castro, Cameron Maybin, Elvis Andrus, Giancarlo Stanton, Jason Heyward, Jay Bruce, and Justin Upton.

And going back even further, the last second basemen with a four-hit game before their 22nd birthday were Jose Lopez in 2005 and Jose Reyes in 2004. Apparently being named “Jose” is the key.

Jon Gray will start Opening Day for the Rockies

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Manager Bud Black has tabbed Jon Gray to start on Opening Day for the Rockies. That will be Monday, April 3 in Milwaukee against the Brewers in an afternoon contest.

Gray, 25, is starting Opening Day for the first time in his career. He’ll be the sixth different Rockies pitcher to start Opening Day in as many years.

The Rockies and Gray had a bit of a scare on Friday as he left his spring training start with discomfort in his left foot, but everything came up clean in an MRI. He pitched again on Wednesday with no issue.

Last season, Gray went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA and a 185/59 K/BB ratio in 168 innings. A consensus top prospect entering each of the previous three seasons, Gray surprisingly put up better numbers at Coors Field — the most hitter-friendly park in baseball — than away.

Blake Treinen named Nationals closer

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Today Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker named Blake Treinen as his closer. Treinen has saved exactly one big league game.

There wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice, however. Last year Washington had Mark Melancon, but with him gone and GM Mike Rizzo’s failure to land a high-profile closer in the offseason, it became a contest between Treinen Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.

Treinen posted a 2.28 ERA with 31 walks and 63 Ks in 67 innings in 2016. His big improvement last year came against lefties, who had tattooed him in the past. He pitched well this spring as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

The Nats are our favorites to win the NL East, but we do have some questions about the pen. Blake Treinen will take the first crack at answering them.