Astros second baseman Jose Altuve has a legitimate case to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award, which will be handed out after the postseason. He finished third in AL MVP Award balloting last year, has made five All-Star teams, won three Silver Sluggers, and won one Gold Glove.
One doesn’t necessarily need a breakout postseason performance to be classified among the game’s superstars, but it doesn’t hurt. Altuve hit three solo home runs in Thursday’s 8-2 victory over the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS, showing to a national audience what he is capable of doing.
It was just the 10th time since 1903 that a player homered three times in a postseason game. Babe Ruth did it twice in the World Series in 1926 and 1928. Bob Robertson did it in 1971, as did Reggie Jackson in 1977 and George Brett in 1978. In this millennium, that feat has been accomplished by Adam Kennedy in 2002, Adrian Beltre and Albert Pujols in 2011, and Pablo Sandoval in 2012. Lots of legendary names in that list.
Altuve hadn’t had any postseason success to his ledger prior to Thursday’s action. He went 1-for-4 with an RBI against the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game in 2015, then went 3-for-5 with three singles and an RBI in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Royals. Between Games 2 and 5 of that ALDS, he went 0-for-17 with a walk. In total, that’s a .154 batting average with zero extra-base hits over 26 at-bats.
Altuve was already doing things few players had ever done. He’s one of only 12 players to accrue at least 1,200 hits and 200 stolen bases through his age-27 season. The only players who did that in the 2000’s were Edgar Renteria, Carl Crawford, and Elvis Andrus. Altuve has won three batting titles and has accrued 200-plus hits in each of his last four seasons. If you’re a diehard baseball fan, you’re already well aware of Altuve’s batting prowess and Hall of Fame potential. To everyone else, though, Thursday was Altuve’s coming out party. He’s officially on the map.