BOSTON — Jose Altuve, the Little Big Man of the Houston Astros, hammered the Boston Red Sox on Sunday.
“Oh man, the big guy. He put a charge in that one,” Houston manager Bo Porter said after Altuve, the diminutive second baseman with the big bat, hit a grand slam, one of his four hits, to lead Houston to an 8-1 win and a split of the four-game series.
“Every time we have situational hitting and we let them pick their situation, Altuve always ... (says) ‘bases loaded, bases loaded,’” Porter said. “He got bases loaded today and put a real good swing on it.”
Altuve, who is 5 feet 5 inches tall, smiled when told what his manager said, admitting, “Every time we go to situational hitting in BP, I say ‘bases loaded.’” His loud hit, which came after a controversial overturning of what had been an inning-ending call, capped a six-run rally that led Houston to its 52nd win of the season, one more than the Astros had all last year. It was also Houston’s second win in 11 all-time games at Fenway Park.
Altuve, who leads the major leagues with 173 hits and in multi-hit games with 53, also had three singles and finished the game hitting .339.
The slam was his first, the homer his sixth of the season.
“I felt really happy,” Altuve said. “It was my first grand slam and we took a big lead early in the game. Now we’re going to come back (Tuesday) and try to do the same with the Yankees.”
The homer came after a call at second base was overturned in Houston’s favor, extending the inning. Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected after the home run, for still arguing the previous call.
The Astros, getting help when left fielder Yoenis Cespedes lost a fly ball off the bat, already had two runs home in the second when shortstop Marwin Gonzalez grounded one off losing pitcher Joe Kelly to shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts, who aided Houston’s Friday night win by trying for a force at second instead of throwing to first, stepped on second and threw to first for what appeared to be an inning-inning double play.
The Red Sox left the field, but Porter, urged by third base coach Pat Listach, came out and said Bogaerts threw the ball before his foot came down on the base. He was clearly correct and the call was overturned — after some doubt about its reviewability. Right fielder Robbie Grossman then walked and Altuve connected.
Farrell said the call wasn’t reviewable because it qualified under the new “neighborhood” transfer rule, put in to protect middle infielders.
“The first explanation I got completely contradicts what took place, which says that this is not reviewable,” said Farrell, who admitted “I went too far with my reaction.”
Porter met with the umps, who then went to the headsets to find out if the neighborhood play was the call. The play didn’t fall under the transfer rule because it was a matter of Bogaerts stepping on the base. First base ump Doug Eddings tossed Farrell.
“I explained to Bo that I was going to ask New York, the replay center, if it was in fact reviewable because a neighborhood play is not,” crew chief Jim Joyce told a pool reporter. “New York came back to me and said, ‘Yes, that play is reviewable.’”
Center fielder Dexter Fowler (his seventh) and first baseman Jon Singleton (No. 11) also homered in support of right-hander Collin McHugh, who struggled through six innings to raise his record to 6-9.
“It was kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde today,” said McHugh, who turned in his fourth straight one-run performance. “Some innings I felt really great, some innings I was really struggling command wise — especially with the fastball.”
Kelly, making his first Fenway start after two no-decisions on the road since being traded to Boston, was shelled for all seven runs on seven hits in four innings. He walked six in falling to 2-3 overall on the season.
“It was one of those games — I wasn’t very good today,” Kelly said.
Down 7-0, Boston right fielder Daniel Nava doubled home a run in the bottom of the third, but was caught rounding second base, which really hurt when a walk and single followed.
Kelly has walked 13 batters in 17 innings with Boston and hasn’t won in his last five starts, with the Cardinals and Red Sox.
NOTES: Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia, who has been on fire at the plate, missed Sunday’s game, on his 31st birthday, with flu-like symptoms. He had hit three homers on his previous seven big-league birthdays. ... RHP Brandon Workman hopes to end a six-game losing streak (five starts) when he opens Boston’s four-game home series against the Los Angeles Angels tonight. Workman’s last outing was in relief in the 19th inning of the Aug. 9 game in Anaheim, and he gave up a home run to Albert Pujols, the only batter he faced.
Big Papi hits No. 400 in Red Sox uniform
If the Red Sox brass decides to give David Ortiz a watch to commemorate his joining franchise elite Saturday night, then starting pitcher Rubby De La Rosa may want to chip in a lifetime supply of batteries.
Ortiz went 3-for-5 with six RBI, and joined Ted Williams (521) and Carl Yastrzemski (452) as the only players with 400 or more home runs in a Red Sox uniform. His two-dinger night helped erase De La Rosa’s struggles in a 10-7 victory over the Houston Astros at Fenway Park.
“He was a main part of the offense bailing our pitching out tonight,” said Farrell. “Every time David comes to the plate you think there is an opportunity or a chance we might see a ball go out of the ballpark. On two occasions tonight that was the case.”
Ortiz drilled his way into the record books with a mammoth blast in the third inning.
In the fifth, his two-run shot helped jump-start a four-run inning to supply enough offense for the win. Ortiz added a two-run double in the eighth to give closer Koji Uehara some breathing room.