Altuve's 2 Early Throwing Errors Doom Astros In ALCS Game 2
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi is safe at first after Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel (10) has to come off the base to catch a throw during the first inning in Game 2 of a baseball American League Championship Series, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
SAN DIEGO: Whether they’re in the field or at the plate, the Houston Astros are finding it tough to summon their usual postseason proficiency so far in the AL Championship Series.
Almost as tough as Jos Altuve is finding it to throw to first base from shallow right field.
Altuve’s two throwing errors were the lowlight of Houston’s 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 2 on Monday, with his first error prolonging the first inning and leading directly to Manuel Margot’s decisive three-run homer.
Were very surprised, Astros manager Dusty Baker said. Thats his first throwing error all year, and he hit two of them today.”
Altuve’s mistakes and another quiet day at the plate have put the defending AL champion Astros in a 2-0 series hole in less than 24 hours in San Diego.
Houston is facing an 0-2 series deficit for only the second time during its current run of four consecutive playoff appearances with two AL pennants. The Astros lost the first two games of last year’s World Series to Washington before winning three straight and infamously losing two more in the first World Series featuring seven consecutive losses by the home teams.
If defense wins championships in baseball, Houston’s gloves are not ready for rings. The Astros have made three errors in two games, while the Rays have played sparkling defense all across the diamond in their two victories.
Houston led the majors with a .991 fielding percentage in the regular season, making just 20 errors in 60 games. Altuve is the normally sure-handed second baseman on one of the majors’ top fielding teams, but the six-time All-Star bounced two throws to first while playing in a defensive shift in Game 2.
Altuve made his first error with two outs in the first inning when he fielded Ji-Man Choi’s grounder in right field and lobbed a poor throw to first for Yuli Gurriel, who also failed to bail out his teammate by snagging the low, but catchable ball.
Margot homered two pitches later, putting three unearned runs on the board for Tampa Bay.
Altuve’s arm failed him again in the third inning after he fielded Brandon Lowe’s grounder in right, bouncing another throw to Gurriel at first. Gurriel failed to help out again.
You just hope he isnt getting the yips, because invariably they come in bunches, said Baker, who gave Altuve a hug in the dugout after the third inning. “Everything comes in bunches. I just told him to flush it. This guy has been awesome for us. Youve got to flush it and move on, or else it multiplies. Im sure hell do that.
After the second error, the Astros put shortstop Carlos Correa in the spot normally occupied by Altuve in the shift.
But the Astros’ normally reliable double play combination has been vulnerable at Petco Park in a series requiring a higher level of play to beat the impressive Rays.
Correa made Houston’s only error in Game 1 on a grounder by Mike Brosseau in the fifth inning, although it didn’t lead to a run. Correa made just one error in 57 games during the regular season, and that error on Sept. 1 ended his team-record, 90-game errorless streak at shortstop.
Altuve’s first error put the Astros in a hole they never escaped, even with a superb start from Lance McCullers Jr. The veteran right-hander pitched seven innings of four-hit ball with 11 strikeouts, but his only run support came from Correa’s sixth-inning homer his fifth in seven games, matching his entire regular season total.
After getting nine hits and just one run in Game 1, the Astros ended their 13-inning scoreless streak with Correa’s homer. But they didn’t rally until the ninth inning of Game 2, when they got three straight singles and loaded the bases twice but scored only one run.
George Springer grounded into a bases-loaded double play that cut the deficit to 4-2 before Altuve and Michael Brantley walked. They were followed by Alex Bregman, whose history of postseason heroics includes a walk-off single in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series. The magic wasn’t there this time. Bregman hit a 98 mph line drive to right-center, but Kevin Kiermaier caught it to end the Astros’ hopes.
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