Houston second baseman Jose Altuve departed Kansas City on Sunday evening as the American League batting leader.
He’s hitting 12 points worse than Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando.
Orlando is batting .359 for the Royals, but he is 50 plate appearances shy of qualifying for the batting title race. Altuve leads the American League with a .347 average, three points better than Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
“It’s been really impressive to watch him. When he first got hot, it was like, ‘OK, let’s just ride this for as long as we can,’ ” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s never slowed down.”
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But can he catch up?
Orlando has averaged just more than four plate appearances per game in his 44 starts this season, but he’s only started 59 percent of the Royals games. He’s been a regular fixture lately, though, taking over the starting right field job.
His ability to qualify for the batting title will correlate with his ability to stay in the lineup. If he’s able to do the latter, it would require about an additional 50 games before Orlando reaches the minimum number of plate appearances. Per MLB rules, a player must average 3.1 plate appearances per team game.
Of course, all of this is rendered irrelevant if Orlando is unable to maintain his average, but so far, so good. He has managed to avoid any extended slumps, and he’s hitting .475 over the last two weeks.
“He’s just doing a good job of covering the plate and covering the field,” Yost said. He’s “not trying to do too much, not trying to hit homers — just going up there and putting good swings on the ball wherever it’s at and finding holes.”