The first-place Astros routed the last-place Phillies (HOU 13, PHI 4) on Monday night and stretched their AL West lead to 17 games over the Mariners. Houston has been the most dominant team in the American League all season and it is showing no sign of slowing down, even with Carlos Correa on the disabled list.

The Astros won Monday thanks to second baseman Jose Altuve, who went 4 for 4 with two doubles and a walk before being removed in the late innings to get some rest during a blowout. Altuve scored three runs and drove in three more. Here is video of his monster night:

The 4-for-4 effort Monday extended Altuve's hitting streak to 16 games, and in 12 of those have been multihit games. This is not a cheap hitting streak by any means -- Altuve has been crushing the ball. His slash line for July: .507/.554/.760. Yes, Altuve is hitting .507, and it's not like July just started, either.

As you could imagine, it's not often a player hits over .500 over a full calendar month. Only seven players have done it -- seven players for eight instances -- in a month in which they had at least 80 plate appearances. Here's the list:

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  • Ivan Rodriguez, June 2004: .500/.542/.733 in 96 plate appearances
  • Todd Helton, May 2000: .512/.588/1.000 in 102 plate appearances
  • Harry Heilmann, August 1927: .505/.586/.814 in 119 plate appearances
  • Rogers Hornsby, August 1924: .509/.570/.896 in 127 plate appearances
  • George Sisler, June 1920: .526/.578/.763 in 131 plate appearances
  • Ty Cobb, July 1918: .521/.566/.677 in 107 plate appearances
  • Joe Jackson, June 1916: .512/.571/.733 in 100 plate appearances
  • Joe Jackson, May 1913: .505/.579/.784 in 114 plate appearances

It's amazing that baseball went from August 1927 to May 2000 without a single player hitting .500 in a month, isn't it? Think about all the great players during that time. Hitting machines like Ted Williams, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Ichiro Suzuki never once did it. Pretty crazy. 

The Astros still have six games in July, so it's possible Altuve's average will slip under .500 at some point. That said, the way he's swinging the bat right now, it wouldn't surprise me if he raised his July average during those six games.

Jose Altuve has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Astros this month. USATSI

Even if Altuve's average slips under .500, hitting "only" .450 in a calendar month would an accomplishment. The last player to do that was David Freese in July 2010 (.458). The only other player in the past decade to hit at least .450 in a month was Josh Hamilton, who hit .454 in June 2010.

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According to FanGraphs, Altuve has been the most valuable player in baseball this month at +2.0 WAR. Nationals slugger Bryce Harper is hitting an incredible .438/.526/.875 in July, yet he's only at +1.7 WAR for the month. This great month has moved Altuve atop the season WAR leaderboard for position players. Here is the top five:

  1. Jose Altuve, Astros: +5.5 WAR
  2. Aaron Judge, Yankees: +5.4 WAR
  3. Anthony Rendon, Nationals: +4.9 WAR
  4. Bryce Harper, Nationals: +4.8 WAR
  5. Mookie Betts, Red Sox: +4.5 WAR

The AL MVP race is wide open at the moment. Altuve and Judge are the two front-runners for sure, with Red Sox ace Chris Sale in the conversation. Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez and Astros outfielder George Springer deserve votes, too. Correa and Angels center fielder Mike Trout are also MVP candidates, though their injuries take a bite out of their candidacy.

As it stands, Altuve is the best player on the best team in the league, which likely gives him a leg up in the AL MVP voting. His insane July has his overall season batting line sitting at .365/.431/.574 -- no one else in the AL is hitting over .329 -- and right now he's so locked in that it seems he's impossible to get out. When he's hot, Altuve is unstoppable. We've seen it all month.

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