SAN DIEGO — There is a somewhat universal baseball phrase in Latin American countries that goes, “Despues del error, viene el hit.”
Venezuelan Jose Altuve, like every player from Latin America, is very familiar with this piece of philosophy. It means, “After the error, comes the hit.”
And boy did it ever come to fruition against the Houston Astros after Altuve, a six-time All-Star and one-time Gold Glove winner, committed what turned out to be a backbreaking gaffe in the first inning when he short-hopped what should have been an easy, inning-ending throw to first baseman Yuli Gurriel.
Two pitches later, Manuel Margot slammed a three-run shot over the center-field fence, sending outfielder George Springer to grab his knees as he bent over in disbelief. The Tampa Bay Rays went on to win 4-2 and take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
“We were very surprised,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “That was his first throwing error of the season, and he made two today. You just hope he isn’t getting the yips, because invariably they come in bunches. You have to flush it and move on or else it multiplies.”
It was actually Altuve’s third throwing error of the postseason, after having none during the regular season. He had one against the Minnesota Twins in the wild-card round.
Altuve did not participate in postgame Zoom interviews. His best friend on the roster, Carlos Correa, did.
“As a teammate, you have to be supportive,” Correa said. “We’re down 0-2; we haven’t lost a series. We have to stay positive. We have to play better baseball to win this series. The error already happened, and there’s nothing that can be done about that.”
The bizarre part of this Game 2 was how the Astros statistically did so many things better than the Rays. Houston outhit Tampa Bay 10-4. Astros pitchers struck out 13 batters while walking none and allowed one earned run. Rays pitchers registered eight strikeouts, three walks and two earned runs.
“Baseball is a weird game,” Correa said. “You can do everything right and still come out on the wrong end.”
But it was that three-run home run after Altuve’s first-inning error that proved to be the difference, making Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr.‘s superb outing (seven innings, 11 strikeouts, one earned run) go for naught.
“Lance threw better than [Rays starter] Charlie Morton or any of those guys over there; just nothing to show for it,” Baker said. “It’s very frustrating because Charlie Morton wasn’t that sharp today. I’ve seen him much sharper.”
“It’s very frustrating because all you hear is exit speed,” Baker said. “We had some great exit speed today.”
Baker, the closest thing to a philosopher in today’s game, was asked afterward about those pesky baseball gods and everything they can do to a club’s psyche.
“I’m not one of the gods,” Baker said. “If the gods did answer me then that would mean I’m not here on earth anymore. Like I said, this game comes in bunches; hits, runs, errors. Hopefully, that’s the end of the bunch.”
“I’m not going to have a message other than, ‘Hey, boys, we’ve got to keep swinging it,'” Baker said. “Talk is cheap. We just have to find some holes.”