Jose Altuve is going all Chuck Knoblauch this postseason. The Astros second baseman made another crucial error in Game 3 of the ALCS on Tuesday night (TB 5, HOU 2), this time throwing a potential 4-6-3 double play ball into left field. That contributed to a five-run sixth inning that completely swung the game in the Rays' favor.
Here is Altuve's error and the ensuing go-ahead rally:
I'm not 100 percent convinced the Astros turn the double play with Brandon Lowe running, but they definitely should have had the lead runner at second base for the first out of the inning. Instead, Altuve threw the ball into left field, and the inning unraveled on the Astros.
In Game 2 on Monday, Altuve short-hopped a throw to first base that would have ended the first inning. Yuli Gurriel was unable to handle the poor throw, the inning continued, then Manuel Margot made Houston pay with a three-run home run. Here is the error and the home run that followed:
Altuve made another throwing error on a nearly identical play later in Game 2. Also, earlier in Game 3, he short-hopped a throw to first base that Gurriel was able to scoop. Altuve's throwing has been a real adventure in the ALCS, so much so that shortstop Carlos Correa has started playing in shallow right field as part of the shift, not Altuve.
"You can go on a defensive slump the same way you go through an offensive slump. Then the physical becomes mental," Astros manager Dusty Baker told reporters, including the Washington Post's Jesse Doughtery and the Houston Chronicle's Brian Smith, following Game 3. "... We're giving him all the support than he can. Nobody feels worse than Jose, because he takes it very seriously and to heart."
Given his throwing issues, the easy solution for the Astros is putting Altuve in the designated hitter spot moving forward -- Altuve hit his fourth homer of the postseason earlier in Game 3, so he's still dangerous at the plate -- with Aledmys Diaz taking over at second base. That won't happen, however. Baker committed to Altuve at second base in Game 4.
"Oh for sure. That's without a doubt," Baker told reporters, including MLB.com's Brian McTaggart, when asked about played Altuve at second base on Wednesday. "(Putting him at DH) doesn't help us and it would certainly kill him."
It should be noted Altuve made zero throwing errors during the regular season. All four of his errors were fielding errors (booted grounders, etc.). So, either Altuve forgot how to throw at some point these last three weeks (i.e. developed the yips), or he's playing through an injury that is affecting his throwing. I'm guessing it's the latter, but who really knows? Only Altuve and the Astros.