Altuve's 2 early throwing errors doom Astros in ALCS Game 2

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Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve reacts after Tampa Bay Rays Manuel Margot hit a three run home run against Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. during the first inning in Game 2 of a baseball American League Championship Series, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

SAN DIEGO – Whether they're in the field or at the plate, the Houston Astros are finding it tough to summon their usual postseason proficiency so far in the AL Championship Series.

Almost as tough as José Altuve is finding it to throw to first base from shallow right field.

Altuve's two throwing errors were the lowlight of Houston's 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 2 on Monday, with his first error prolonging the first inning and leading directly to Manuel Margot's decisive three-run homer.

“We’re very surprised,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s his first throwing error all year, and he hit two of them today."

Altuve's mistakes and another quiet day at the plate have put the defending AL champion Astros in a 2-0 series hole in less than 24 hours in San Diego.

Houston is facing an 0-2 series deficit for only the second time during its current run of four consecutive playoff appearances with two AL pennants. The Astros lost the first two games of last year's World Series to Washington before winning three straight and infamously losing two more in the first Series featuring seven consecutive losses by the home teams.

“We were down 0-2 in the World Series last year with (ALCS Game 3 starter) José Urquidy and (ALCS Game 4 starter Zack) Greinke coming up next to pitch for us,” shortstop Carlos Correa said. “It’s not like we haven’t done it before. It’s not impossible.”

But if defense wins championships in baseball, Houston's gloves are not ready for rings. The Astros have made three errors in two games, while the Rays have played sparkling defense all across the diamond.