Culture / Sporting Life

Mr. 100 Jose Altuve Lifts Up His Teammates, Leaves Travis Scott Gushing and Gives the Rangers a Lesson In Playoff Heart

The No. 1 Reason Houston's Winning Window Remains Wide Open

BY // 10.20.23

ARLINGTON — One hundred playoff games is a crazy number. Especially in a baseball world where Mike Trout’s played three playoff games in his life, Don Mattingly only got five in his entire career and even Ken Griffey Jr. had to be satisfied with 18. Houston Astros heartbeat Jose Altuve gets to keep going. Gets to play his 101st playoff game this Friday afternoon with his team all the way back to a tie series in this all-Texas American League Championship Series with the stunned Texas Rangers.

Altuve will tell you that he came out a winner in his 100th playoff game because of teammates like Jose Abreu (15 career playoff games with eight of those coming this October with the Astros), Yordan Alvarez (55 playoffs games, all since 2019) and Chas McCormick (29 playoff games, all with the Astros). Of course, McCormick still remembers waiting for his first playoff game, watching Jose Altuve do his thing.

“I just remember watching these guys, when I was in the minor leagues, be in the playoffs and dominating,” McCormick says. “I always thought ‘By the time I get to the Big Leagues, I hope the window’s still open.’ I thought maybe it would close. And it might be a rebuild.

“Obviously, I’ve been here for three years and we’ve been in the World Series for three years. It’s been a blessing. And it’s pretty crazy of how many games Altuve’s played in the postseason. How many games (Alex) Bregman’s played in the postseason.

“But you can tell. These guys were born to play in the postseason.”

The Rangers are finding that out the hard way. This team from North Texas seemed to be on a fairytale playoff run, but it’s been run over by the Astros’ postseason tank the last two nights at Globe Life Field. A 10-3 Houston wipeout in Game 4 makes it a combined 18-8 Astros margin in the Rangers’ home ballpark. And with Game 5’s quick turnaround 4:07 pm first pitch looming, Bruce Bochy’s team is in danger of being sent staggering back to Houston in a world of hurt.

Leave it to Travis Scott who exits the Astros’ clubhouse at Globe Life Field before reporters are let in and volunteers: “Y’all don’t have to worry about anything. Those boys are on fire!”

From down 0-2 to tied 2-2 with ageless ace Justin Verlander set to take the mound. Another tough situation. Another Astros answer. These Houston Astros aren’t just the most dependable thing in professional sports today. They’re one of the most dependable things in America period, as trustworthy as the idea that Apple will come out with another new iPhone.

“We’re the Houston Astros,” Abreu says in Spanish at his locker with Astros interpreter Jenloy Herrera relaying the words in English. “We’re the Houston Astros. We never give up. It’s very important to give credit to all the guys in this organization who never give up.

“And knew it was up to us to turn this around.”

Jose Altuve, 100 playoff games in, is chief among those guys. In this Game 4, all Altuve does is start the game with a double, add two more hits, score three times and pull off an instant highlight clip defensive play far behind second base. Not a bad way to celebrate becoming Mr. 1oo.

Not that Jose Altuve has much interest in celebrating himself.

“Obviously it means a lot,” Altuve says of reaching 100 postgame games. “It means the team’s been having success in the last several years.”

“It’s pretty crazy of how many games Altuve’s played in the postseason. How many games (Alex) Bregman’s played in the postseason. But you can tell. These guys were born to play in the postseason.” — Chas McCormick

Then the heart and soul of this dynasty goes right back to talking about his teammates.

Jose Altuve makes guys like Jose Abreu feel comfortable becoming part of this Astros’ winning machine. He is so welcoming, so encouraging, so eager to give everyone else the credit that those attributes start spreading throughout the team.

The reward for Mr. 100?

Watching Abreu, who spent the first nine seasons of his MLB career with the Chicago White Sox putting up impressive numbers but never really getting the big stage, suddenly transform into a playoff monster for the Astros. After a largely miserable regular season that had many Astros fans lamenting the big first baseman’s free agent signing.

There Abreu is smashing his fourth mammoth home run of these playoffs — a 438-foot blast off the second deck that drops back into the Astros’ bullpen and makes it 7-3, effectively putting the Rangers to bed for the night. Just a little bit of two-out, two-strike mastery from a 36-year-old Cuban legend who seems to be getting the hang of this playoff thing.

“Amazing,” Altuve says. “I think he’s one of the best hitters right now. Of course, Yordan (Alvarez) in there. And Breggy. I think (Abreu) has more big things to do this postseason. Because he’s enjoying what he’s doing.

“He likes his big moments.”

Jose Abreu Astros playoffs
When you’re hitting as many bombs as Jose Abreu is in these playoffs, everyone wants a piece of you. (@astros)

This is what playing with Mr. 100 can do for you. Once you get comfortable in the playoffs, there is nothing more exhilarating than having the chance to do something in October. Play with the Astros and you’ll get plenty cozy in the postseason. Abreu has already played more playoff games this October than he did in his entire nine season run in Chicago.

“It’s track record,” Astros reliever Ryne Stanek tells PaperCity. “Nobody gets too high, too low. Everybody knows what we’re capable of. So it’s not a situation where people panic. Just go out and do your job.

“. . . I think that’s the whole key. Be steady. Be reliable. And just like do what you’re supposed to do. I feel like that’s kind of what we’ve done the past few days.”

What the Astros do to the Rangers in Texas’ home ballpark is threaten to take their spirit away.

“We’re the Houston Astros. We’re the Houston Astros. We never give up. It’s very important to give credit to all the guys in this organization who never give up.” — Jose Abreu

Luka and Romo In the Building and The Power of Playoff Belief

With Mavericks greats Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic in the house, Tony Romo chilling in the stands and former Houston Texans icon receiver Andre Johnson, wearing a No. 80 Johnson Astros jersey, to join Travis Scott in that clubhouse visit, the off-the-field star power between Dallas and Houston is nearly even. On the field, it becomes a no contest.

This Astros lineup is as relentless as a cocaine bear, as unforgiving as erosion, as annoyingly determined as a mosquito seeking its first taste of blood. Before the Rangers even come to bat, before many in the sellout crowd of 42,000-plus are even used to the unfamiliar sight of the Globe Life Field roof being open, the Astros have scored three runs.

Dusty Baker’s lineup opens the game with four straight hits — a Jose Altuve double, a Mauricio Dubon single, an Alex Bregman triple over the center fielder’s head and a Yordan Alvarez single. Just like that, it’s 3-0 Astros.

Houston Astros lost to the Minnesota Twins in extra innings at Minute Maid Park, after Jose Altuve’s grand slam provided a lead in the 7th inning
Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman knows his team always take us on all comers. And rises to any challenge. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

When the Rangers crawl back to tie it at 3-3, Altuve and Co. immediately score four runs in the top of the fourth inning with the playoff reborn Jose Abreu delivering the game swinging blow. From there, the defending world champions just keep adding on. If this is a boxing match, the referee would have called it the seventh inning.

Mr. 100 is a big part of it. But so is Mr. 94 Alex Bregman, who hits that two-run triple and later does The Chas Chomp in the dugout with the joyful zeal of an 8-year-old kid. And so is Yordan Alvarez, who racks up three more RBI to up his total to 13 RBI in eight playoff games this October. So is McCormick, who hits a two-run shot of his own.

“I do remember my first playoff game,” McCormick tells PaperCity. “I was like super nervous. Rookie year we’re in the World Series, you know? I think every playoff game’s the same. You’ve got nerves before the game. It’s always a big game.

“But you definitely learn with how many playoff games we’ve played — you definitely learn how to calm yourself, slow the game down and not be so antsy.”

Mr. 100 will help any new teammate find his playoff way. It’s what Jose Altuve does. It’s a big part of why these Astros are the Astros. Why that window isn’t closing anytime soon.

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