One day after the celebration of Derek Jeter’s final game played at Yankee Stadium, New York City baseball fans who wished to attend a game were relegated to the contest between the Houston Astros and the New York Mets at Citi Field. Neither club is setting the baseball world on fire, but both have young players with potentially outstanding future careers in MLB.
Jose Altuve, the second baseman of the Astros, may be the best of the future stars, who competed at Citi Field on Friday night.
The native of Venezuela was chosen as a non-drafted free agent by Houston in the fall of 2006 at the age of 16. He remained in the minors until 2011, when he proved to be at too a high a level of ability to not be given an opportunity to play in the majors.
He began the 2011 season in Class A Lancaster, where he batted an amazing .408 in 52 games. His next move upward was to Class AA Corpus Christi, where in 36 contests his batting average was .361.
The talented infielder made his major league debut on July 20 with Houston. He demonstrated his adjustment to the big leagues as he batted .276 in 57 National League games.
In the following season, his first full year in the majors, Altuve was named to the National League All-Star Team and won the MLBPAA award as the Astros’ Heart and Hustle Award. His batting averages were, respectively .290 and .283 in the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
The 5’6’’ infielder reached an even higher plateau of achievement this year. The 24 year-old is currently leading the American League in batting with a 342 average, six points ahead of Victor Martinez with two games remaining in the season.
His stats this season rank him very high in a number of categories. His 223 hits is a high for a Venezuelan born player in MLB. That number has only been topped by two right-handed big league players, Kirby Puckett and Paul Molitor, in the last 40 years. His current marks of 223 hits, 46 doubles and 56 stolen bases have only been reached by one major leaguer in the same season, Ty Cobb.
After Friday night’s game, in which he went 1 for 4, Altuve spoke about the challenge of reaching this honor, “It would mean a lot to me to win the batting title for the first time in the franchise. Five-six points, that’s nothing for Victor Martinez in two days. I’m not going to win the title sitting on the bench.” Thus, he made it clear he didn’t intend to sit out the remaining games and sit on his lead.
Altuve’s sole hit on Friday against the Mets was crucial to Houston’s 70th victory of the season. The Astros’ only scored in one inning, three runs in the sixth. The output in that frame was sufficient to achieve the win as the Mats only run came on a solo home run by Curtis Granderson in the fourth.
With one out in the sixth, Mets starter Jon Niese, who had only yielded three hits and no runs, was lifted because of an elevated heart rate. Robbie Grossman then doubled off reliever Carlos Torres. Altuve followed with a run batted in single to tie the score at 1. Chris Carter next doubled and Altuve scored what became the winning run when Met catcher Anthony Recker dropped the relay throw home.
Altuve, a team player, discussed the success of his club after the contest, “It’s very important, 70 [wins]. It’s a big improvement from last year. Next year, we can be in the playoffs.”