Jose Altuve ought to have punctuated his three-run homer Thursday by dramatically turning to all corners of Yankee Stadium, and doubling over in an exaggerated collection of bows. He had been handled all afternoon like a professional wrestling villain, and he had earned the fitting to mock the individuals who had spent the afternoon mocking him.
The Yankee fans cursed Altuve’s staff. They cursed Altuve’s title. They even cursed Altuve’s thirty first birthday.
If he had been carrying an digital gadget beneath his jersey, the fans would have cursed Altuve’s buzzer, too.
But as he confronted Chad Green within the eighth inning with two on and the Astros down a run, Altuve was the embodiment of a narrative Yankee slugger Reggie Jackson used to inform concerning the recommendation his father had given him on the topic of baseball and adversity. As lengthy as that bat is in your fingers, Jackson’s father would say, you’ll be able to change the story.
The bat was in Altuve’s fingers. On a excessive, full-count, 96 mph fastball, he would change the New York baseball story of May 6, 2021, with a blast that despatched Yankee fans again in time, again to the very place that whipped them right into a frenzy all collection lengthy — the 2019 ALCS, received by Altuve on that perpetually walk-off homer in opposition to Aroldis Chapman, earlier than the second baseman famously motioned to his teammates that they completely shouldn’t tear off his jersey.
And, maybe, dislodge one thing that is perhaps beneath it.
“It was just a great feeling,” Altuve stated of his swing that broke the Yankees’ five-game profitable streak, and broke a couple of hearts too. He clearly wasn’t within the temper after the sport to rejoice the payback, or to do an end-zone dance for reporters by way of Zoom. Maybe Altuve didn’t need the fans know simply how a lot they obtained to him these final three days. Maybe this was his option to remind people who he’s been doing this for a very long time — hitting baseballs the place opponents can’t catch them — whether or not the fans have been cheering for him, or chanting in opposition to him.
“I’m just trying to do my best to play the game,” Altuve stated. “You don’t like to get booed by anybody, but that’s part of the game. I was just going out there trying to do my best to help my team win.”
The Yankees did quite a lot of profitable issues on the market Thursday, beginning with Altuve’s former teammate, Gerrit Cole, who surrendered solely two solo shots to Yordan Alvarez over seven high quality innings. Giancarlo Stanton and Clint Frazier homered. Gio Urshela turned a single right into a double with some opportunistic hustle. And Gleyber Torres turned an Aaron Hicks infield hit right into a victory lap for each man, girl and youngster who despises the shift, delivering one of the fascinating dashes from second to 3rd to residence you’ll ever see.
On nearly some other day, the Yanks take this recreation and sweep this collection. But then Altuve stepped into the field within the eighth, one out, with the group of 10,000 chanting “CHEA-TER … CHEA-TER,” sounding like a crowd of 40,000. They had loudly booed the Astros star from the pregame introductions, and had profanely instructed him within the first inning what he might do with that little birthday of his that he shares with Willie Mays.
And then Green threw his fateful four-seamer towards Altuve, a pitch, Houston supervisor Dusty Baker stated, “that was over his head.” What pitch isn’t over Altuve’s head? He is listed at 5-foot-6, which is its personal tall story. Not that it issues. Altuve despatched the ball crusing over the left-field fence, and did a purposeful jog across the bases. He crossed the plate, pointed to the sky, after which walked right into a receiving line of giddy teammates exterior the dugout. Baker grabbed each of his shoulders and playfully shook him; the supervisor had inspired him within the pregame to hit one out on his birthday.
“He couldn’t have scripted that any better,” Baker stated.
The story continues to be storybook, even when it’s been defaced. As an adolescent attending a tryout in Venezuela, Altuve was instructed to go residence as a result of he was too quick. He returned the subsequent day, anyway, and ultimately satisfied an Astros scout to signal him for $15,000. Altuve wouldn’t solely develop as much as win an MVP, a World Series, and three batting titles; he would show to be one of many extra exceptional athletes of his technology.
He would also prove to be a cheat, like the remainder of his teammates, throughout that 2017 championship season, which included yet one more ALCS victory over the Yankees. So that’s why a Yankee fan got here dressed as a trash can to this collection, and why so many others screamed for the Astros’ heads. And that’s why Altuve’s revenge was so significant. Payback is a pitch.
“It quieted the fans for a little while anyway,” Baker stated. “I can’t tell you how happy everybody in the dugout was for Jose. He’s one of the best guys you’ll ever meet in this game.”
Maybe, perhaps not. But Altuve simply shut up a New York crowd, with Spike Lee in the home, like Reggie Miller as soon as did. He is a hell of a ballplayer and, higher but, a worthy villain.