Baker applied that intuition to his lineup card on Wednesday, keeping the veteran Jose Altuve at second base despite his making critical throwing errors that helped doom the Astros in Games 2 and 3. He moved Altuve down a spot, to third in the batting order, and made a powerful comparison in their pregame talk.
“I told him that another second baseman, Little Joe Morgan, batted third for the Big Red Machine,” Baker said. “Then he told me, ‘Hey, man, I’m ready.’”
Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman who died on Sunday, led Cincinnati to two championships in the 1970s. At 5 foot 7, he had surprising power for his size, like Altuve, who is 5 foot 6 and homered in the first inning on Wednesday for the third time in the A.L.C.S. Altuve later added a run-scoring double and made two clean throws in the field.
“He wants to help the team in every aspect of the game, and when he believes that he failed or believes that he let the guys down, he really takes it to heart,” said center fielder George Springer, who slammed a towering two-run homer in the fifth. “But one of the most impressive things about Jose is the way he can clear his head and still contribute.”
Altuve said he simply had no choice but to shake off his poor throws. That is easier said than done, of course, but he proved it in the ninth, scooping a Joey Wendle grounder, turning his shoulders and firing a strong throw to second for a force out.
“That’s the way I always do it, like routine,” Altuve said. “I don’t want to think too much about throws, because that’s when you make mistakes. For now I’m just going to do what I do, catch the ball and throw it.”
Altuve’s throw was not quick enough for shortstop Carlos Correa to complete the double play, which would have ended the game. Willy Adames doubled in a run, and a wild pitch by Pressly brought him to third, 90 feet from tying the game.