Opinion: Jose Altuve celebrates his birthday by getting revenge on taunting Yankees fans

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NEW YORK — It was merciless, cruel at times, but Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve refused to succumb to the taunts.

Instead, ever so quietly, he vowed to get revenge.

Oh, baby, did he ever.

Altuve, with one glorious swing of the bat, ruined everyone’s antics at Yankee Stadium, rounding the bases with sweet redemption Thursday in the Astros’ 7-4 victory over the New York Yankees.

The home run wasn’t nearly as dramatic as his American League pennant-winning homer in Game 6 of the 2019 American League Championship Series, but the feeling sure felt as gratifying.

You ever have a 31st birthday with a near-sellout crowd chanting, “(Expletive) Your Birthday?

Or spend three days listening to Yankees fans viciously boo, mock, jeer and curse your name?

“You don’t like to get booed by anybody,’’ Altuve said. “I think I’m just a guy that wants to go out there and help our team win.

“It doesn’t matter where we’re playing, it’s going to mean the same to me.’’

While Altuve tried to downplay the revenge factor, no one else did.

“It meant a lot to us in the dugout to see him hit the home run,’’ Astros starter Lance McCullers said, “and I’m sure for him, especially on his birthday.’’

It was the first time Altuve homered on his birthday, let alone Willie Mays’, but it could have been the wedding anniversary of the Yankee Stadium beer vendor, and it would have felt just as beautiful.

“You couldn’t have scripted that one ever better,’’ said Astros manager Dusty Baker, who hugged Altuve in the dugout. “That was big. That was real big. That was huge.

“It quieted the fans for a little while, anyways. I can’t tell you how happy everyone was in the dugout for Jose.

“He’s one of the best guys you’ll ever want to meet in the game.’’

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Pardon the Yankees and their fans for vigorously disagreeing, aware that Altuve won the the American League MVP award and the batting title while leading the Astros to the 2017 World Series championship.

Yes, the same year they were caught cheating, illegally stealing electronic signs.

Yankees fans certainly voiced their feelings toward the Astros all series, but it was Altuve who got the last laugh.

The Astros were trailing 3-2 in the eighth inning with runners on the corners when Altuve stepped to the plate. The crowd stood on their feet and cursed him, just as they have all week. Altuve worked reliever Chad Green to a full count.

Green came back and fired a 96-mph fastball. It was high. Eye level. Really, almost over his head.

Altuve swung anyways.

He tomahawked the ball and it landed 404 feet away into the left-field bleachers, silencing the crowd.

Jose Altuve celebrates his three-run home run against the New York Yankees.
Jose Altuve celebrates his three-run home run against the New York Yankees.

It was Altuve’s first go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later in a regular-season game since hitting a tie-breaking two-run homer on June 8, 2017, against the Kansas City Royals.

“It was a great feeling,’’ Altuve said. “We were trying to win a game. We’re losing, and we flipped the game around. I think it was huge for us.’’

And a dagger to the Yankees, who were left answering questions how it felt having Altuve, of all people, landing the game-winning blow.

“It sucks,’’ Green said, “but it could have been any other guy. Doesn’t matter if it’s Altuve or [Alex] Bregman or whatever.

“It still sucks.’’

It could also have been any other player to hit the game-winner for the Astros, avoiding a sweep, but the fact it was Altuve provided the perfect send-off departing Yankee Stadium.

“We were super happy for him,’’ said DH Yordan Álvarez, who became only the second player to hit two homers off Yankees ace Gerrit Cole in the same game. “We reminded him that he’s an MVP.’’

And, yes, as Altuve reminded everyone in New York, he’s still a Yankee killer.

Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jose Altuve home run helps Astros avoid sweep against Yankees in Bronx