HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) — For all the talk of Texas’ dominance against the Astros, Houston may hold a similarly strong advantage over another American League West team.
Led by Jose Altuve’s two long balls, the Astros cranked five homers en route to yet another series sweep of the Angels with a 13-3 win on Sunday in Minute Maid Park.
Houston has now swept three consecutive series vs. Los Angeles and owns an 11-1 mark against the Halos this season. It’s made a significant difference in the standings, as the Astros stayed within 2.5 games of the Rangers for the AL West lead.
And about that Altuve guy? He keeps making a case for the AL MVP, this time via a 3-for-5, career-high 6 RBI effort that included a home run in each of the first two innings.
Altuve took Angels starter Tim Lincecum deep to the tune of 421 feet on a three-run homer with none out in the first inning. That firmly set the tone for the game, which was a laugher by the third inning.
“What’s new about him?” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Getting in the middle of it every single game. Kicking us off with a three-run homer really did ignite us.”
Altuve followed his opening salvo with a screaming liner that barely cleared the edge of the Crawford Boxes in left field, his 17th homer of the season. That’s already a new career high, besting the 15 he hit in 2015.
The diminutive second baseman is hitting a scorching .361, now owns a 1.005 OPS and has played in every game this season. Even he’s a bit surprised at his power this season.
“Still impressed a little bit about the homers,” he quipped. “I’ve never hit 17 home runs before, so it’s good for our team.”
Teammate and double-play partner Carlos Correa said his teammate is leaving no doubt. Jose Altuve is the best player in baseball.
“He is, definitely,” Correa said. “He can steal bases, he can play good defense, he’s a Gold Glover and Silver Slugger and batting champion. So for me, he [is] the MVP.”
But Altuve wasn’t the only Astro mashing the ball on Sunday.
Luis Valbuena followed Altuve’s first-inning homer with a no-doubt solo shot to right field, his 13th home run of the year.
Evan Gattis was again on the #CrushCity train, launching his third dinger in two games with a sixth inning slam. Preston Tucker, two days removed from his latest call-up, also added a solo homer in the fifth.
In total, the Astros compiled 15 hits as all nine starters reached base safely, eight of them through hits. Carlos Correa also enjoyed a 3-for-5 afternoon, highlighted by a pair of doubles.
“We jumped on them early, so that is as fun of an offensive day as we could have imagined,” Hinch said.
It was more than enough for the embattled Mike Fiers. The veteran righty had struggled to the tune of 10 runs allowed over his previous two starts across seven innings.
Most distressing has been his lack of ability to pitch well with big leads. Fiers got another chance on Sunday, spotted an 8-0 lead through two innings.
He performed admirably, though his spot in the rotation may still be up in the air. Fiers posted seven innings of three-run ball, yet surrendered nine hits. Still, it was a solid improvement for the struggling hurler since the outcome was never in doubt.
“Just take that into my next start,” Fiers said. “It’s proof I can do this, and confidence goes a long way, so I think it’s big.”
Added Hinch: “He looked like a man on a mission today.”
Sunday afternoon was further proof it’s an exciting time for the Astros. Altuve is a bonafide MVP candidate, the Astros haven’t lost ground on the Rangers in nearly a month and, oh yeah, Houston called star prospect Alex Bregman up after the game.
“We’re having a lot of fun right now,” Correa said. “Playing really good baseball will do that.”