If you believe in karma, that might be the best explanation for what’s happening to the Houston Astros and, more specifically, to José Altuve during the American League Championship Series.
The usually sure-handed second baseman appears to have developed a case of the postseason yips, having committed his third throwing error of the series during Game 3. It could not have come at a worse time, either.
The Astros, already down 2-0 in the series to the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays, had been clinging to an early lead in Game 3. They desperately needed a win Tuesday night to realistically sustain their push for another World Series appearance in the wake of a sign-stealing scandal that has marred the 2017 title and tarnished Altuve’s reputation (among others).
Instead of turning into an out, the latest Altuve error opened the floodgates for a five-run Rays rally that proved decisive as Houston fell into a 3-0 ALCS hole.
Jose Altuve commits his third throwing error of the ALCS. pic.twitter.com/z7l6TCV7kz
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 14, 2020
Typically, that’s a throw Altuve makes with his eyes closed. After all, he went through the entire 60-game regular season without committing even one throwing error.
Right now, it’s a throw the former AL MVP would probably like to avoid at all costs.
Just like Game 2, when Altuve’s first throwing error was immediately followed by Manuel Margot’s three-run home run, the Rays quickly capitalized. It was Joey Wendle in Game 3 giving Tampa Bay the lead with a two-run single.
Then Hunter Renfroe broke it open with a two-run double, extending Tampa Bay’s lead to 5-1. That one Houston run, by the way, was an Altuve first-inning homer. The game ended 5-2.
Altuve’s sudden struggles harken back to another infielder who experienced the yips. Former Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch saw his career take an unfortunate turn in 1999 when he could no longer reliably make the relatively simple throw to first base. Knoblauch committed 41 errors in a span of 231 games, mostly on poor throws.
Obviously, we haven’t reached that level of concern yet with Altuve. But given the circumstances surrounding him, the timing of he the miscues and the damage they’ve done to Houston’s postseason hopes, they may be baseball’s most famous case in two decades.
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