MVP WANNABE

Ken Hoffman: Horse named after Astros superstar finishes ... second

Jose Altuve has had a banner year. So how did his namesake do in a recent horse race? Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Sports radio host Barry Laminack won the annual Great Celebrity Camel Race on January 19 at Sam Houston Race Park. Laminack, who moonlights as a standup comic, hosts the 1-4 pm talkfest The Usual Suspects with Joel Blank on ESPN 97.5 FM. By bouncing across the finish line first, Laminack won $500 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Second place went to Channel 26 anchor Melissa Wilson. Two other entrants reportedly chickened out and refuse to board the spittin’ beasts. There’s a word for people like that: smart.

“I was scared to death,” Laminack says. “I felt like I was going to fly out of the saddle a few times.”

Saddle?

“It was more like a roll cage, a u-shaped bar. They told me I could hold on to the hair on the camel’s hump, but I felt that would only make him angrier. He was freaking out in the starting gate.

“Between my boys hitting the hump, and my rear end hitting his back, it felt like I was in a minor car wreck. My butt and lower back were battered. Two days later, my arms, back, butt, and knees were still hurting. The next time I ride a camel I’m bringing a hemorrhoid pillow to sit on.”

Meet Altuveatbat

That same night, a horse named Altuveatbat finished second in the fourth race, paying $5.20 and $3.40. The 3-year-old colt won $1,340 for his owner. It was the horse’s professional debut.
  
It’s been a big year for Astros second baseman Jose Altuve. He wins his third batting title, cops the Most Valuable Player award, the Astros take the World Series, and now a horse named after him finishes second at Sam Houston Race Park.

Altuveatbat — one word. How? Why?

“I named him,” says Sabina Pish. “My husband trains thoroughbred horses and the horse’s owner, Joey K. Davis, asked us to come up with a name. I caught ‘Astros Fever’ during the World Series, and fell in love with Jose Altuve and his story. I wanted to pay homage to Mr. Altuve.”

Altuveatbat was born March 15, 2015. His dad is a stallion named Etesaal; mom is Maddie’s Pride. Get this, Altuveatbat’s grandfather is named Grand Slam. Second base, second place. It’s all coming together now.

But why not name the horse just plain “Jose Altuve?”

“It’s very hard to get celebrity names approved by the Jockey Club, the registry that approves names for horses,” Pish says. “If I had named him ‘Altuve at Bat,’ it probably would have been rejected. I took a chance with ‘Altuveatbat’ and they approved it.”

That’s a change in the rules. Back when, owners had free rein on naming horses after celebrities.

Here’s a sports trivia question: Chris Evert is in the hall of fame for two sports, can you name them? Answer: horse racing and tennis.

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Houston can win series on Sunday

Timely hitting helps Astros edge out D-backs to even series

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros had two losses over the last 24 hours; one a game against the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Friday night, the other the news that their recovering ace, Justin Verlander, announced Saturday afternoon that he is opting to undergo Tommy John surgery. The decision and surgery will likely sideline Verlander through 2021 when his current contract with Houston ends.

With that, the Astros headwinds continued to increase, meaning a win to even the series with Arizona on Saturday would be a much-needed pick-me-up. Here's how they did:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 26-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-2, 2.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luke Weaver (1-8, 6.51 ERA).

D-backs score two on Javier who is pulled early

Kole Calhoun, who drove in four runs, including a home run in Friday's game, would start the scoring on Saturday with a solo home run off of Cristian Javier in the top of the second, giving Arizona an early 1-0 lead. Javier allowed another run in the top of the third, giving up a leadoff single that would move to third on a groundout then score on a sac fly, doubling the lead to 2-0.

Javier finished the third and tossed a 1-2-3 fourth, but whether it be due to a pre-determined pitch count or other situation, he would not go any further, ending his night there on just 77 pitches. His final line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 77 P.

Astros grab a lead in the sixth

The Astros were able to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff single by Josh Reddick, who would move to third after a walk and fielder's choice before scoring on an RBI-groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-1. Enoli Paredes was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the top of the fifth and retiring six straight batters for two perfect frames.

Houston would get to Luke Weaver in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff single by George Springer, who would score from first on an RBI-double by Altuve to tie the game. Altuve would come around as the go-ahead run later in the inning on an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, knocking Weaver out of the game as the Astros took their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Houston evens the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James was the next reliever for Houston in the top of the seventh, and despite getting into a jam by issuing a one-out walk and hitting the next batter, he was able to get out of it. It was thanks to a great play by Michael Brantley, who started a double play by catching a lineout and throwing a runner out at second to end the inning.

Brooks Raley had the eighth and erased a one-out walk by retiring the next two batters to maintain the one-run lead. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly to get another save and finish the one-run game. Pressly would do so, as Houston would move back up to .500 and even the series 1-1 heading into the rubber game on Sunday.

Up Next: The finale of this series between Houston and Arizona, and Houston's last regular-season home game of 2020, will get underway at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 8.53) ERA will be on the mound for the D-backs, while Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Astros.

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