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Altuve leads Astros into middle test against Mets

Sep 27, 2014 - 2:05 PM ( - Jose Altuve has essentially locked up the major league batting title.

With an RBI in four of his last six games, the Houston second baseman is on track to give the Astros their first batting title. Up until now, the only other teams never to win a batting championship are Milwaukee, Arizona and Tampa Bay.

Altuve holds a .342 batting average, well above the .336 mark held by Detroit's Victor Martinez going into tonight's contest against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Altuve, who went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored in last night's 3-1 Houston win, has 223 hits this year. That's tied with Kirby Puckett (1986) for the third-most hits by a right-handed batter since 1975. Puckett had 234 in 1988 and Paul Molitor 225 in 1996.

"It would mean a lot for me to win the batting title for the first time for the franchise," Altuve said.

Additionally, Altuve's 223 hits are the most by a second baseman since Charlie Gehringer posted 227 hits in 1936 for the Tigers.

Altuve also said he believes the Astros could make the postseason next year. Last season, Houston endured a franchise-worst 111 losses.

"It's a big improvement from last year to this year," he said. "I know next year we're going to do even better and I think we can be in the playoffs."

Altuve's team snapped a three-game skid last night. He hit an RBI single as part of a three-run sixth inning. Matt Dominguez also drove in a run while Kevin Chapman (2-0) got the win for getting two outs for the Astros. Brad Peacock gave up a run on four hits with seven strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings in the start.

Curtis Granderson hit a solo home run for the Mets, who have lost three of their last four. Jon Niese gave up just three hits over 5 1/3 innings, while Carlos Torres (8-6) allowed three runs -- two earned -- in relief to take the loss.

Niese left the game due to an elevated heart rate.

"It just feels like your heart is beating really fast and really hard," Niese said.

Catcher Anthony Recker acknowledged Niese told him of the heart issues.

"When I went out there he was breathing a little heavy and he said 'my heart is racing.' We got the training staff and it started to slow down when they decided to take him out," Recker said.

Rafael Montero starts tonight's game for New York. This will be the 10th contest in the right-hander's major league career. His last start came Sept. 10 against Colorado when he allowed three hits in 5 1/3 scoreless innings to notch his first victory.

Samuel Deduno counters for the Astros. He tossed a pair of hitless innings in relief on Sept. 19 against the Mariners, but gave up an unearned run. This will be his first start since June 14 at Detroit, when the right-hander pitched for the Twins. In that start, Deduno was rocked for seven hits and seven runs in 2 2/3 innings of a 12-9 defeat. This will be his first career appearance against the Mets.

This is the first series between the clubs since 2012, when the Astros went 4-2 in the season set.