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Altuve’s throwing yips have Houston Astros on brink of ALCS elimination

José Altuve’s sudden ability to make simple throws in the field has become one of the biggest stories of the Major League Baseball playoffs

José Altuve’s sudden inability to make simple throws in the field has become one of the biggest stories of the Major League Baseball playoffs – and couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Houston Astros.

Altuve, who won a Gold Glove as the American League’s best defensive second baseman in 2015, made a throwing error on a routine ground ball during Tuesday night’s Game 3 of the ALCS that opened the door for the Tampa Bay Rays, who rallied to a 5-2 win and a commanding three-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven series.

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The gaffe came one day after Altuve threw away two balls to first baseman Yuli Gurriel in a 4-2 defeat in Game 2.

The normally reliable second baseman has an undeniable case of the yips, and it has bitten the Astros badly. The defending AL champions have slipped into an 0-3 series deficit, and the franchise is on the brink of getting swept for the first time since the 2005 World Series.

His three errors in the last two games led to five runs while prolonging rallies that would have been largely shut down by solid defensive play.

“We’re giving him all the support that we can,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “Nobody feels worse than José, because he takes it very serious and takes it 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 to see him hurting.”

Baker also said Altuve will play second base when the Astros attempt to avoid elimination on Wednesday night in Game 4: “Without a doubt. That doesn’t help us (to make a change), and it would certainly kill him.”

Altuve didn’t speak to reporters for the second straight night, but the six-time All-Star’s teammates and manager remained united behind him.

“Altuve is a great player, man,” said shortstop Carlos Correa, Altuve’s counterpart in the Astros’ double-play combo since 2015. “He’s going to be a Hall of Famer when his career is said and done. These games are tough, but he’s going to bounce back from it, like he has before when things are tough. I think he’ll be fine.”

Altuve homered in the first inning of Game 3, but his sixth-inning error cleared the way for a five-run rally by the Rays, who scored all five of their runs immediately afterward.

With Randy Arozarena on first, Altuve fielded Brandon Lowe’s grounder and botched a routine toss to second base on an attempted forceout. Altuve bounced his throw past Correa into left field with a noticeably unnatural throwing motion, ruining a strong chance at a double play.

With Altuve crouched at second in the same disbelieving posture he had after his second error in Game 2, the Astros removed starter José Urquidy, who had been pitching well before Altuve’s mistake.

During the pitching change, Altuve stood by himself at second with his hat off while the other three Houston infielders went to the mound. Afterward, they went over to Altuve, giving him encouragement and support.

“I said, ‘Keep your head up,'” Correa said. “‘We’ve still got a lot of game left. We’re going to win this game.’ I blame myself for that error as well. I feel like I make that pick nine times out of 10, and I wasn’t able to pick my teammate up on that one. When I look at the replay, I…

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