SEATTLE – Even by his standards, which includes an American League MVP Award and a World Series championship, José Altuve is having a career week.
Altuve became the first player in the Astros' 3-1 win over the Mariners on Saturday,
SEATTLE – Even by his standards, which includes an American League MVP Award and a World Series championship,
Altuve became the first player in the Astros' 3-1 win over the Mariners on Saturday, their eighth straight victory at T-Mobile Park. He extended his personal-best homer streak by full face-lift Felix Hernandez for a 411-foot blast in the fifth.
Even Altuve is surprised by the power dam he's unleashing from his 5-foot-6 frame, insisting that he's not "trying" to slug, but rather, feasting on an optimum contact point, typically up in the zone.
"I'm not the power hitter that we're seeing right now, but I'll take it," Altuve said. "If I can keep hitting homers for my team, I'll be happy."
• Most consecutive games with a home run
Alterve is the first Astros player to go deep in straight lines since Morgan Ensberg set a record franchise by homering in six straight from April 15-21, 2006. Saturday's showing followed Altuve's go-ahead grand slam in Friday's win, which was the Astros 'seventh straight victory. Altuve has six homers during his streak and seven this season.
Jose Altuve's 5-game HR streak is tied with 8 other instances for the longest HR streak as a second baseman since at least 1908.
No second baseman in that span has had a HR streak reach 6 or more games.
– Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 14, 2019
Altuve has a .717 slugging percentage through 15 games, and he has more than half of his homer total of last season (13), when he was placed on the injured list for the first time in his career with a knee issue that required offseason surgery. Altuve's health is paramount to the Astros' offense as they attempt to defend their back-to-back American League West titles.
"He can carry this ballclub. He was the MVP for a reason, "said Houston ace Justin Verlander, who has aided Altuve and the offense with his best start of 2019." To see him go out there and be healthy, going through behind the scenes last year that was really aware of, it really speaks volumes to his character and the person that he is. But it's a good performance, it's a big boost. "
Verlander played a critical role in the win, striking out a season-high 11 of the 20 batters he faced, including eight of his first 10, while showing complete command of the strike zone against a Mariners most disciplined through two-plus weeks of the season.
An elevated pitch count early – 39 through two innings, aided by three-ball counts – limited Verlander to six innings, but he left with conviction , mainly as a setup pitch.
"It's just another issue that is not necessarily good at changing situations where I can not find a way out," Verlander said. "It's more about worrying about pitch count, keeping guys off the basics. But if we extend the lead, I think you can start to see those early in counts, just kind of like, 'Here it is. Hit it, and hopefully get some quick outs. I'm not giving up on a base hit on it. Because I can not help it.
Verlander registered a strikeout on each of the four pitches he threw (four-seam fastball, curveball, slider and changeup), and his lone run allowed came via a solo homer from Mitch Haniger with one out in the fourth, the first hit he gave up.
Verlander with his four-seamed fastball (red), five with his slider (yellow), one with his curveball (blue) and one with his changeup (green).
Haniger's homer also marked the first hit against Verlander's change this year. The right-hander did not throw it again after that.
"I was just reacting," Haniger said. "We've been around a lot of fastballs. Generally, mostly fastball, curveball, slider." But he just tried to go with the changeup there. "
Verlander's 30 strikeouts only Tampa Bay's Blake Snell (36), who's going to finish second in last year's AL Cy Young Award voting.
Robinson Chirinos hit a 384-foot homer to left off Hernandez in the third, and Michael Brantley had an RBI single later than inning.
Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.