As Jose Altuve took his frenetic warm-up swings before his at bat in the fifth inning, I considered the stats they showed on screen. A fine average for the little guy, but just one home run? The powerfully built second baseman could surely muscle a few more out of the park. How about right now? I love to predict a home run, and I would like to say I predicted Altuve’s shot into the Crawford Boxes last night, the first run in what turned into a blowout. Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton’s sinker, though, so puzzling for right-handed hitters, quelled the optimism. How could Altuve get his hands through the zone quick enough to pull the ball? (And pulling the ball was his best shot at Minute Maid Park.) J.D. Martinez and Clint Barmes were each struck out by Morton’s easy rider of a fastball inside, that disappeared under the wrists at around the time the hitter thinks he should be hitting the ball.
With an out in the fifth, Morton threw another one to Altuve. He crooked his wrist and side-slung the sinker in. And it was in, but Altuve was also in, and the ball he hit dropped into the first few rows of the Crawford Boxes like a piece of candy into the upturned palms of a child. Like I said, I didn’t predict the home run. Instead, it was a response. In those few moments, beginning when I hoped for some life from Altuve’s power bat and concluding when his home run ball dropped into the seats, the Astros dismal record faded to the background. Hunter Pence’s remarkable run with the Phillies faded, too, and Lance Berkman’s hot start in St. Louis. The entirety of the baseball universe was contained within that moment. I stood up from the couch and raised my arms.
All was Altuve, the mighty mite.