Altuve poised to win second batting title

Altuve poised to win second batting title

ANAHEIM -- There was much drama in the American League batting race two years ago, when Jose Altuve entered the final day with a slim lead over the Tigers' Victor Martinez and was originally going to be held out of the lineup for the Astros' regular-season finale at Citi Field against the Mets.

Then-interim manager Tom Lawless called Altuve into his office just prior to the start of the game, because the team decided Altuve should play. He went 2-for-4 in an 8-3 loss, but he finished with a .341 batting average to win the team's first batting title, and he set a club record with 225 hits.

Altuve enters Sunday's season finale in Anaheim against the Angels as a lock to win his second batting title in three seasons. He's hitting .338, which leads Red Sox teammates Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia, both of whom are an insurmountable 18 points behind at .320. Altuve also leads the Major Leagues with 215 hits, one ahead of Betts.

"I don't know if I'm going to win it," Altuve said prior to this final series of the season. "We still have three games left, and I've got to hit."

He went 1-for-3 on Friday and 2-for-4 on Saturday and is expected to sit out the season finale.

Altuve has hit .377 on the road this season, which eclipses the previous franchise record of .362 set by Moises Alou in 2000 and Jeff Bagwell during his National League Most Valuable Player Award-winning season in 1994. Altuve has set career highs this year in runs (107), homers (24) and RBIs (96).

Altuve, who reached 1,000 career hits earlier this year, is the only Astros player to reach 200 hits twice, and this will be his third time. Prior to his 225-hit season of two years ago, the only Houston player to have 200 hits in a season was Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, with 210 in 1998.

Altuve is the fifth second baseman in Major League history with three 200-hit season, joining Hall of Famers Charlie Gehringer (1929-37), Rogers Hornsby (1920-29), Nap Lajoie (1901-10) and Billy Herman (1932-26).

What's more, Altuve is the first player with three consecutive 200-hit seasons since Ichiro Suzuki reeled off 10 in a row (2001-10) and the first right-handed hitter since Michael Young (2003-07) and Derek Jeter (2005-07).

Shortstop Carlos Correa also has 96 RBIs, giving them both a shot to become the first Astros teammates to have 100 RBIs in a season since Lance Berkman (106) and Carlos Lee (100) in 2008. Correa and Altuve are the first second base/shortstop combo to have at least 95 RBIs in a season since Bobby Doerr (120) and Vern Stephens (144) for the 1950 Red Sox.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.