HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) — Jose Altuve keeps racking up new career bests and reaching greater milestones during this MVP-caliber 2016 season.
He added to the collection with another three-hit game on Tuesday night, as his ninth-inning single gave him 1000 career hits in just his sixth Major-League season.
The second baseman is already in rarified air. He has reached 1000 hits in 786 games, the quickest to that mark in franchise history.
“I’m proud of what he represents and how he works,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “I’m glad he’s ours and I hope the people who get to watch him daily appreciate what he does and how he does it.”
Altuve now has a four-digit hit total in fewer career games than half of the game’s top-10 all-time hit leaders, including names like Pete Rose, Paul Molitor and Carl Yastrzemski.
He’s also well on his way to a third consecutive 200-hit season and American League batting title with 170 hits and a .365 batting average through 118 games.
The reigning Gold Glove second baseman has become arguably the most consistent player in baseball, and his Tuesday night effort was a prime example. Altuve laced a pair of singles early, including a RBI laser out to right that just escaped a glove in the fifth.
Altuve lined out in his next at-bat but didn’t leave No. 1000 for another day.
He yanked a single down the left-field line in the ninth, earning a standing ovation from the remaining crowd of Astros and Cardinals fans in Minute Maid Park. The second basemen delivered a sincere tip of the helmet in response.
“As soon as I got the hit, they sounded really happy,” Altuve said. “All the games it took me to get to 1,000, they were here pushing me and encouraging me, so I had to thank them.”
It was his 19th three-hit game of the season, the most among Major League players in 2016.
Altuve reached 1,000 hits more than 100 games sooner than any previous Astros stars. For example, Hall of Famer and 3,000-hit club member Craig Biggio had recorded only 781 hits — 219 fewer than Altuve — through 786 career games.
The notoriously soft-spoken and unselfish Altuve said hearing the scope of those statistical achievements is overwhelming.
“It has to mean something,” he said. “It means you are doing something good for your team and showing up every day and… really doing everything for your team. I feel very proud.”
In the midst of a year that has cemented him as one of MLB’s best players, Altuve reaching the 1,000 hit plateau firmly puts 3,000 career hits in play.
At age 26 in just his fifth full season, Altuve could average a “mere” 190 hits per season and still reach the 3,000 mark by 2027 in his age-37 season.
Hinch said such expectations aren’t unreasonable. He believes Altuve is “only scratching the surface” despite the dominant numbers he’s put up to date.
“The people around him have seen a giant step forward,” Hinch said. “There’s still room for him to grow and become a fixture for years to come.”
Counting down to 3,000 hits may be looking a bit ahead, but more games like Tuesday’s make it harder than ever to doubt the four-time All Star.
“I don’t want to stop,” Altuve said. “I want to keep going and get better and help my team and I feel [like] I’m not going to be good until I take my team to the World Series.”