HOUSTON — After missing the Astros’ last three games with a strained right hamstring and running out of ways to keep himself occupied in the dugout, Jose Altuve returned to the lineup against the Rockies on Tuesday, batting third while helping spur the Astros to an 8-5 win over the Rockies.
But it wasn’t the Altuve most are accustomed to seeing. Altuve, who finished 1-for-4 with an RBI, a run and a walk, didn’t have his customary burst of speed on the basepaths and was noticeably tentative about his hamstring.
“No,” Altuve said bluntly when asked if he was playing guarded.
“Good,” he responded to the next question of how he felt playing Tuesday.
His manager had a different view.
“He assured me he was really just guarded more than anything else,” said A.J. Hinch. “I’d rather him be guarded than overextending himself. Obviously, he wasn’t running with the burst of speed that everyone’s used to. I’ll check with him, we’ll get on an airplane. I’m not sure what I’m going to do the next day or two with him. He feels fine — he was just going to make sure there was no mishap today.”
Altuve, currently in second place in American League All-Star balloting at second base, didn’t waste any time getting back into the swing of things, lining an RBI single in the first inning to plate George Springer, who topped out at 21.43 mph scoring from second, according to Statcast™.
Like Altuve, Springer has been making an All-Star push of his own, batting .359 over the 30 games prior to Tuesday, second-best among AL outfielders, trailing only the Rays’ Joey Butler. On the season, Springer’s 10 homers are more than the totals for Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon, both of whom are currently slated to start in the latest AL All-Star ballot update. Springer’s 13 steals are fourth-best among AL outfielders, better than Cain’s 11; Gordon has not stolen a base this season.
Altuve walked in his second at-bat and eventually scored on a Hank Conger RBI single in the third.
Altuve said before the game he felt 100 percent healthy and his time in the dugout wasn’t nearly as bad as some around him speculated.
“It wasn’t that hard because we won two of three of those games and you’re always going to feel happy when your team wins,” he said. “But at the same time, you want to go out there and be part of the win and help your team.”
Altuve batted behind the red-hot Springer in the leadoff spot and Carlos Correa in the two-hole. The young duo combined for three hits in the win.
“We’re playing really good,” Altuve said after the game. “We’re swinging the bat, placing the ball good, playing good defense. This is a team win.”