By Sam Bush

Jose Altuve, a former MVP, six-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, three-time batting champion, and Gold Glove winner, melted down and the Houston Astros are one defeat away from going home for the winter, losing again to the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-2, and Altuve’s arm is largely responsible for two of the defeats.

“It’s tough to see this happening to such a great player and such a great guy …’’ Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “It hurts us all to see him hurting.’’

Altuve didn’t make a throwing error in the regular season but in a span 24 hours, made three, leading to five runs, with the Rays now leading the best-of-seven series, 3-0.

When the Atlanta Braves shut out the Cincinnati Reds and the Miami Marlins in four out of five postseason games, it was dismissed as a good pitching staff taking advantage of poor offenses.

But now Max Fried and Ian Anderson have limited the Dodgers to one run in 10 innings in back-to-back starts.

Plus, before a spirited ninth-inning comeback in Game 2, eight Braves pitchers limited the Dodgers to 10 hits and eight walks in 17 innings, striking out 20.

All of which proves that this pitching staff is deep — regardless of the injuries suffered in its rotation — and this team is elite.

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