HOUSTON—Jose Altuve hit .346 to win the American League batting title for the second-straight year before batting .533 in the ALDS to help the Houston Astros eliminate the Boston Red Sox.
As Houston prepares to host the N.Y. Yankees tonight in Game 1 of its first league championship series since 2005, Altuve's teammates and coaches say what's better than his gaudy numbers is his approach.
No matter how great his stats are, he always believes he can do better.
“He has four hits and he's like, 'Carlos, I never had a five-hit game before, let me try to get the fifth hit,'” star shortstop Carlos Correa noted.
“He's always striving for more," he added. "And that's what I've learned from him that makes me better every single day.”
Altuve is one of the longest-tenured players on this team and among a handful who were around for the really bleak times when the Astros lost 100 or more games in three-straight seasons from 2011-13.
He was a major reason the Astros returned to the post-season after a 10-year absence in 2015.
But he didn't have a great performance in those playoffs when he batted just .154 without an extra-base hit as Houston was eliminated by eventual champion Kansas City in the ALDS.
Things have been much different this time around, with Altuve carrying his big hitting in the regular season into the playoffs with eight hits in the ALDS.
He starred in Houston's Game 1 win over Boston when he became just the 10th player in major-league history, and first since 2012, to hit three homers in a playoff game.
It was that game that helped give him a whopping 1.765 on base-plus-slugging percentage this post-season.
But the all-star second baseman insists he isn't thinking about any of the numbers he's put up so far.
“The five-whatever I hit last series is already gone," Altuve stressed. ”It doesn't count for this series.
"So if someone asks me what is your batting average right now, I would say, 'It's zero.'
“I haven't got a hit in the next series so that's the way I think right now.”
The Astros went 5-2 this year against the Yankees, who rallied from a 2-0 deficit and beat Cleveland 5-2 on Wednesday night in Game 5 of their ALDS.