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The Agonized Faces of Jose Altuve’s Playoff Victims (and Assorted Notes On Last Night’s Game 5 Win)

It’s a trail of baseball tears. Is Jose even more than “this generation’s Derek Jeter?”

Last night, Jose Altuve won yet another post-season game with a critical game-winning home run. He is second all-time in postseason home runs with 26, and 10 of those are come-from-behind, the most in MLB History.

I thought it would be fun to review the reactions of the pitchers’ faces of four of the most iconic of these homers. Those painful expressions of the agony of defeat. I’ll show the videos too. How could I deprive you of that joy.

#1. 2017 WS Game 2 against LA Dodgers’ Josh Fields

Video Link.

#2. 2017 WS Game 5 against the LA Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda

Video Link

#3. 2019 ALCS Game 6 walk-off win against the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman

Video link

#4. 2023 ALCS Game 5 against the Rangers’ Jose LeClerc

Video Link

And here is the call from Astro Radio’s Steve Sparks.

Random Thoughts on Game 5 and this epic Texas ALCS.

Yasiel Puig Adolis Garcia hit by pitch

No one likes to get hit by a hard fastball, and an emotional reaction is understandable. But Garcia reacted like a selfish baby. In both his ostentatious home run trot and his reaction to the HBP, he showed a remarkable degree of narcissism and a total lack of professionalism. With just a little reflection, humility, and self-restraint tempering his reaction, his team might be heading into Houston with a commanding 3-2 lead. Yes, it was Garcia who iced his closer, and maybe with a little more professionalism, the disaster that befell the Rangers wouldn't have happened. Time to update the famous Utree Rangers video: “ Look at Garcia charging the catcher. Look at him shove the umpire. Look at the futility as he leads his team down the tubes. Just look at it.”

Does anyone the day after really think that down two runs in the eighth inning in the ALCS the Astros wanted to put a runner on second with no outs by hitting Garcia? Really?

Unsung Heroes

This game is reminiscent of the 2022 ALDS Game 1. The Astros were behind by two outs in the ninth to the Mariners. Then, Jeremy Pena got a seeing-eye single, and David Hensley worked a miracle walk, putting Yordan Alvarez up with the chance to walk it off. Yordan did not miss.

Last night, Joe Espada, replacing the ejected Manager Dusty Baker, took the unusual decision to pinch hit for last year’s ALCS MVP, Pena, with Yainer Diaz. Diaz was a rookie phenom this year, but he has had almost no at-bats in the last month, and most of the ones he has had were strikeouts. Diaz hit a sharp ground single past the shortstop.

Then Espada pinch-hit for Martin Maldonado with Jon Singleton. Sure, Maldonado is a below-Mendoza line hitter, but Singleton is hitting around .150. But as we all learned in Moneyball, it’s not batting average that matters, but on-base average. Singleton has an exquisite eye (and can crush a homer, too) and had a better chance of working a walk and getting on base. His at-bat was super-professional. He took some close pitches for the walk and set up another Astros masher, playoff-legend Altuve, for the game-winning three-run homer.

And let’s not forget the amazing ninth-inning defensive gem by Grae Kessinger. Keeping Kessinger and Singleton on the playoff roster at the exclusion of others like Jake Meyers or even Corey Julks mystified many fans. But Kessinger and Singleton have earned their place in Astros History forever. Considering what Singleton has overcome with substance abuse, this is especially gratifying.

Be careful what you wish for

I’m sure the Rangers were glad to have Bryan Abreu and Dusty Baker ejected. But from the Astros' perspective, watching Baker fight for his pitcher and his team made me forget all the criticisms I’ve had regarding his decision-making. That was fiery, inspiring leadership from a skipper who is usually calm but knows when to use emotion to light up his team.

And in a practical sense, the ejection probably turned to the Astros’ advantage because they were forced to turn to Ryan Pressly for six outs. Abreu had no command and looked to be on the way to a meltdown. Pressly had a little luck, but as usual, he got the post-season save. Especially impressive was holding the Rangers with runners on first and second with no outs in the eighth after all the chaos of the preceding melee’.

And the pinch-hitting moves didn’t look to be signature Dusty moves, although we’ll probably never really know if he approved the pinch-hitting decisions.

Since 2015, the Astros have had more legendary, come-from-behind post-season wins than we can remember. This is one more unforgettable Astros win to go into the annals of Astros History.

But they still have to win one more game at home. (Why does that sound so hard?)

Game time for Game 6 is 7 CT on Sunday.

Go Framber. Go Stros.