Altuve's two hits in finale lock up batting title

All-Star becomes first Astros player to capture crown in season finale

Altuve's two hits in finale lock up batting title

NEW YORK -- It was a big day for rookie right-hander Nick Tropeano, the Long Island native making his first career start at Citi Field. It was a big day for rookie catcher Max Stassi, who had a pair of RBIs and threw out a runner trying to steal second base.

But this stage, this moment, belonged to the little guy who had the biggest day of all. Astros second baseman Jose Altuve had a pair of hits to lock up the American League battle title in an 8-3 loss to the Mets that put a cap on the 2014 season.

"Everybody was saying, 'Congratulations' and they're happy, and when your team is happy, you have to feel good," said Altuve, the first Astro to win a league batting crown.

The Astros finished the season with a 70-92 record, which is a 19-game improvement over last year's 51-win season. The win-loss record is definitely a sign of the strides that were made on the field, and a productive offseason could set them up to push .500 in 2015.

"There's pros and cons with the season," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "This team is making improvements, and we still have a long way to go, but we feel good about the progress we made this year, despite having some setbacks and hurdles. I feel good we've laid a good foundation for next year. We should be able to build on the progress we made this year and continue and propel this team to the next level."

Altuve finished the season by leading the Major Leagues with 225 hits -- breaking Craig Biggio's franchise record -- and a .341 batting average, to go along with 47 doubles and 56 stolen bases, which led the AL. He led the Majors in multihit games and three-hit games.

The Astros had originally decided to keep Altuve out of the lineup Sunday to help protect his three-point lead over Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez entering the game, but the team and Altuve decided he would play. Martinez went 0-for-3 Sunday to finish at .335.

"I always wanted to play and we made the decision together," Altuve said. "We made the decision [initially] not to play, but they trusted me and I trust them, so let's go outside and play."

Altuve doubled in the third inning and had an infield single the fifth that all but locked up the batting title.

Tropeano, who's from West Islip, N.Y., allowed four runs and six hits in five innings while pitching in front of a throng of friends and family he estimates was more than 100.

"Warming up, you could hear them screaming and all that kind of stuff," he said. "Good, bad, win, lose, it was a dream for me just being here and playing the New York Mets. It's surreal."

Mets starter Bartolo Colon (15-13) held the Astros to three runs on eight hits in six innings.

The game was tied in the fifth when Lucas Duda hit a two-run double to right field to put the Mets ahead, 4-2. Stassi's RBI single in the sixth scored Jake Marisnick and cut the lead to one run, 4-3, but Duda blasted a two-run homer to right field in the eighth off Michael Foltynewicz.

Stassi, whose Major League debut last year was marred when he was struck in the face with a pitch, hit .350 in 20 at-bats and leaves the season with a good taste in his mouth.

"I was just approaching this day like any other day and go out there and try to take care of business and let the game come to me," Stassi said. "That's when I get in trouble is when I try to do too much. Today I was out there having fun. I wish we could have pulled off the win, but that's baseball."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.