Altuve fills bill as Astros' DH with 4-hit game

Altuve fills bill as Astros' DH with 4-hit game

SEATTLE -- There was no way Jose Altuve was going to bunt this time.

Altuve, who inexplicably bunted into an out in the ninth inning of Saturday's loss instead of trying to drive in the potential tying run from second, came out swinging as the designated hitter in Sunday's series finale and led the Astros to an 8-1 win over the Mariners by going 4-for-5 with a two-run homer and three RBIs.

"Today, I went up there and wasn't thinking about bunting," Altuve said. "I was thinking to hit the ball, drive the ball, and I felt really good at the plate today."

Altuve, who leads the American League in batting (.346) and the Majors in hits (125), singled in the first hitting and slugged a no-doubt, two-run homer on a 3-0 fastball in the third to put the Astros ahead, 3-0. It was his 15th homer of the season, which ties his career high set last year. He added an RBI single in the fifth and singled to lead off the eighth.

"He took it personal that he took an at-bat away from himself yesterday," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "When we talked about it today, he's always very apologetic when he does one thing wrong on the field. He's an amazing character guy, he cares about his team, his heart's in the right place. It doesn't shock me he comes out and has a big game and really gave us a chance to get our first breathing room with the home run on the 3-0 count. He's amazing as usual."

Altuve has hit safely in 16 consecutive road games, during which he's batting .492 with 14 runs, five doubles, two homers, 12 RBIs and five steals. He's reached base in 32 consecutive road games and is hitting .404 in 45 games on the road this year.

"I think [Hinch] gives me a lot of confidence when I go up there and play and he tells me every time I have 3-0, 2-0 whatever, I'm free to swing," Altuve said of his homer. "I felt like it was a good situation to swing the bat. It was a 3-0 fastball in the middle and I hit the ball pretty good."

Alas, Altuve's 17th career four-hit game didn't turn into his first career five-hit game when he struck out in his final at-bat.

"The elusive fifth hit is hard for him," Hinch said. "That's a funny thing to say because the first four are very hard for anybody, but Altuve, he enjoys the DH days when he gets hits, like every hitter does."

Sunday marked the sixth time this season Altuve started a game at DH, but he'd rather play the field. Hinch has been more prone to put Altuve at DH this season to give him some rest after doing it only once last year.

"I showed up today and I saw DH, and I didn't have time to change the lineup," Altuve joked. "To be honest with you, I don't think that's going to happen very often."

Altuve then got serious.

"I'm a second baseman, not a DH," he said. "For real."

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.