SAN DIEGO – Jose Altowe was the MVP of the American League in 2017, when his Houston Astros sometimes knew exactly what pitches lay ahead.
Now he doesn’t even know where his own throws are going.
Altowe made his fourth throwing error this season and the third in the AL Championship series on Tuesday night in the sixth inning of the Tampa Bay Rays’ 5-2 win over Houston in Game 3.
Usually, the reliable second baseman has an undisputed case of yips and has hurt the heavily defending AL champions, who have slipped to a 3-0 series deficit and are on the verge of being swept into the series for the first time since the 2005 World Cup.
Altuve also made two throw-in errors in ALCS̵
“We’re giving him all the support we can,” said Houston manager Dusty Baker. “No one feels worse than Jose because he takes him very seriously and takes him to heart. He’s one of ours and we’ve all been through this before. Not in this spotlight like this. It hurts us all when we see him to it hurts. “
Baker also said that Altuve will play second base when Astros try to avoid elimination on Wednesday night in Game 4: “Without a doubt. That doesn’t help us [to make a change]and will surely kill him. “
The six-time All-Star lost to the host in the first inning of Game 3, but his subsequent mistake cleared the way for a rally with five runs from Reyes, who scored all five tracks after that.
With a runner in first place, Altuve fired the founder of Brandon Lowe and made a routine transfer to second base in an attempt to force Randy Arozarena. Altowe bounced his throw past Carlos Correa’s short stop in the left field with a remarkably unnatural throwing motion, failing any chance in a double play.
With Altowe second in the same disbelieving position he was in after his second mistake in Game 2, Astros eliminated starter Jose Urquidi, who had climbed well before Altuve’s mistake.
During the change in altitude, Altowe stood alone for a second with his hat down as the other three Houston insiders went to the mound. They then went to Altouve, encouraging and supporting him.
But Reyes immediately took advantage of the relieving Enoli Paredes with singles from back to back to take the lead. Joey Wendle’s double single with a busy base put Tampa Bay 2-1, and Hunter Renfroe’s double double made it 5-1, before the inning finally ended with 11 beams coming to the plate.
Altuve’s mistakes contrast sharply with the almost flawless defense played by the rays that have made a handful of sparkling defensive plays in every ALCS game.
Altuve’s problems also came to the fore during Game 2, in which he bounced with two throws to the first from a shallow right field while playing in a defensive shift. After the second mistake, Korea took the normal place of Altuve in the replacement of Astros and he kept his place in Game 3.
Altuve also made a mistake in throwing in game 2 of the first round against Minnesota. He made just four mistakes during the regular season for Houston, leading the majors with a field percentage of .991.
When asked if Altuve could be heard, Baker hesitated before saying, “I really don’t know.”
“It’s hard to see this happen to such a great player and such a great person,” Baker added. “I don’t know what it’s called. You can go into defensive decline as well as offensive decline and then physically turn mentally. We definitely have to get over this. “
Altuve made just two mistakes in their first 47 games since a season in their careers before this year. The 5-foot-6 Venezuelan dynamo is generally considered a solid tennis player in second place, winning the Golden Glove in 2015.
Altuve won the AL cane title in 2017 when Houston defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series for their first championship. In the last off-season period, a Major League baseball investigation found that Astros had stolen signs illegally in 2017 and 2018 using a camera in the central field.
Altuve is still contributing to the Houston plate. His first solo homer from Ryan Yarbro was his fourth this season and 17th in his career in the playoffs, and his six ALCS homers are the most in major league history.
Altowe also placed eighth and finished third with busy bases and one, but Kyle Tucker and Juli Guriel could not take him home.
Altowe came out again with two runners and one against Diego Castillo in the ninth, only to strike a nearby checked swing called by referee Jeff Nelson.
Baker said he was “very disappointed” that Nelson did not ask for help before calling for a strike out of Altowe, who made it 2 to 4 with a walk in Game 3.
The fear – an inexplicable, creeping loss of the ability to throw baseball to the desired destination – has affected many talented major leagues over the years.
The once solid second baseman of the Yankees Chuck Noblauch ingloriously lost the ability to throw consistently in the late 90’s, eventually as a result of his move to the left field and his departure from New York. Steve Sachs, another strong defensive second baseman, caught on in 1983 and made 30 mistakes for the Dodgers, although he eventually overcame it.
Yips happen in other positions as well. Hosts Rick Ankiel and Steve Blasse saw their promising careers fall apart when they couldn’t strike, while hunters Jarod Saltalamakia and Mackie Sasser developed a confusing inability to throw the ball back into their own pitchers.