A 96-mph fastball at the letters, a powerful swing, an excited player. Of course, there’s the baseball, too, which landed just above the C&D Scrap Metal sign in left-center.
Jose Altuve, who stands only 5-foot-6 and weighs just 165 pounds, packed this punch off Red Sox left-hander and Cy Young candidate Chris Sale in his first career postseason start, extending the Astros’ lead to 2-0.
The fly ball revolution has been a huge topic of discussion over the course of the season. In mid-September, Alex Gordon hit the league’s 5,694th home run of the season, setting a record for most home runs in a year. The ball is flying further than ever, and some wondered what impact this would have on the postseason.
Four innings later, Altuve stood in against Sale once again. This time, it was on the first pitch of the at bat, another fastball. It landed in the exact same spot. Minute Maid Park exploded; Jose Altuve had his second home run of the afternoon, marking just the third time in his career with a multi-home run game.
At the time of Altuve’s second blast, there had already been 12 postseason home runs across the league in just two-and-a-half games, putting us on pace to see around 150 homers during October baseball games. For comparison, there were only 71 home runs in the entire 2016 postseason combined.
In the bottom of the seventh, Altuve was up once again, this time against Austin Maddox. The 1-1 pitch, Maddox’s third of the game and some sort of offspeed offering, landed, once again, over the wall. Altuve was greeted with a bear hug in the dugout by George Springer and was given a well-deserved curtain call. He had a three-homer game, something he had never done before.
In fact, Altuve became just the ninth player in Major League Baseball history to hit three home runs in a postseason game, a feat only the most elite of ballplayers — and someone named Adam Kennedy (?) — have pulled off:
3 HR Games, Postseason— Devan Fink (@DevanFink) October 5, 2017
Babe Ruth, Albert Pujols and Reggie Jackson are on this list. Barry Bonds, who played in 48 postseason games, is not.
There it was: a 5’6” baseball player hitting three home runs ... in a playoff game. In 2009, when he was just 19, Altuve had just three home runs ... in a 295-plate appearance season.
This is the same player that had just 21 home runs over the course of his first four big league seasons yet has 63 in the three since. It might not appear this way now, but Altuve’s three-homer game could be looked back on as the epitome of the 2017 season.
And it hasn’t let up since the postseason has started. Through eight postseason games, there have been 26 home runs, making it almost a sure-thing that 2017 will pass 2016.
Postseason HR, by year
To be the homer-est postseason in the past five years, 2017 needs to have more than 91 bombs to pass a crazy 2015 postseason that saw Daniel Murphy lead the league with a historic seven.
It certainly could happen, but we would need to see more nights like Jose Altuve’s in order to ensure that something historic goes down beyond the outfield walls this October.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.