jose altuve-houston astros-new york yankees NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 18: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros looks on from the dugout during the ninth inning against the New York Yankees in Game Five of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

In the regular season, the Houston Astros hit. That was their thing. They led the Majors in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, wOBA and more. They posted a team wRC+ of 121, meaning they were 21 percent better than league average. The next highest team (the Yankees) stood at 108. Any sane analysis heading into the ALCS against the Yankees had Jose Altuve and company putting up some crooked numbers.

And yet with a World Series berth on the line, Houston’s bats have gone flaccid.

In five games, three of which they have lost, the Astros have only nine runs on 22 hits. Of those 22 hits, only seven have gone for extra bases and only one has been a home run. No Houston regular is hitting over .280 in the series. Only one Astro (Carlos Correa) can claim an OPS about .700. George Springer is 2-for-18, Josh Reddick 0-for-17, Alex Bregman 2-for-17 and Marwin Gonzalez 2-for-15.

On Wednesday, Yankees righty Masahiro Tanaka shut down he Astros over seven strong inning, allowing only three hits and a walk, while fanning eight in a 5-0 Yankee win. Though Tanaka is a good pitcher on a nice little run since his last regular-season start, he’s still a guy with a 4.74 ERA and 4.34 FIP, the type of homer-happy hurler the Astros are supposed to beat up on. That they failed to mount even a bona fide rally off the righty must be massively frustrating for such a powerful offense.

In the first two games of this ALCS, the Astros got away with not hitting because Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander threw gems to key narrow 2-1 wins. But when Charlie Morton slipped up in Game 3, there were no runs to bail him out. When the Houston bullpen blew a 4-0 lead in Game 4, the team’s bats couldn’t come back against the Yankees’ bullpen. And when Keuchel was a bit less sharp in Game 5 than he had been earlier in the series, a typically potent Astros lineup failed to save him.

Yes, the Yankees were fifth in baseball in ERA and FIP this season, and yes they have leaned on their ferocious bullpen heavily in this series, but the fact remains that the Astros have failed to touch a collection of good-but-not-great New York starters. Houston clobbered the Red Sox in the ALDS then lost all ability to score when the Yankees showed up.

The Astros’ struggles so far in the ALCS do not mean they have suddenly forgotten how to hit and are doomed to be shut out again when the series resumes Friday. Correa, Springer and Altuve are stars, while Reddick, Bregman, Gonzalez, Yuli Gurriel and Brian McCann are solid, above-average hitters. Their bats won’t stay silent forever. The question is whether they can adjust to Yankees pitching and snap out of their funk in time to make a difference.

The Astros will get what could be their final chance Friday, when they meet Yankees righty Luis Severino in Game 6. Houston managed only two hits and one run off Severino in Game 2 before the pitcher was removed due to a false-alarm injury, but Astros hitters could benefit from seeing him for a second time. If they don’t, well, they’ll have all winter to wonder why their bats abandoned them just when they needed them most.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.