Abreu picks up Astros with key HR: 'He likes his big moments'

October 20th, 2023

ARLINGTON -- The comment prompted a double take. Here was José Abreu’s opportunity to thump his chest, having crushed a key three-run homer in a postseason blowout, and the slugger was talking about how it has been “difficult at times” to hit behind .

Surely, he’d misspoken, or perhaps something had been lost in translation -- right? Nope.

“He drives in all the runs,” Abreu said through an interpreter after the Astros’ 10-3 victory over the Rangers in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, pausing before a broad grin spilled across his face.

Abreu’s fourth-inning blast off left-hander Cody Bradford broke the game open, fueling another Houston rout at Globe Life Field on Thursday night that tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece. Including the regular season, the Astros have won seven consecutive games in Arlington, outscoring Texas by a staggering 74-32 margin.

“I know our guys see the ball well here, and the ball carries here,” manager Dusty Baker said. “The dimensions are probably larger here than in our ballpark. Some ballparks you like hitting in, and some ballparks you don’t.”

The Astros certainly enjoy this one. Having claimed a 3-0 lead before Texas starter Andrew Heaney even recorded an out, Houston responded after Corey Seager tagged José Urquidy for a game-tying homer in the third inning.

Martín Maldonado and Jose Altuve -- playing in his 100th career postseason game -- worked back-to-back walks that opened the fourth, and Mauricio Dubón singled to load the bases. After a strikeout, Texas called upon the left-handed Bradford to face the sizzling Alvarez.

Alvarez worked a nine-pitch battle with Bradford before belting a changeup to the warning track in center field, just missing a grand slam. He settled for a go-ahead sacrifice fly -- Alvarez’s 13th RBI of a postseason in which he’s hitting .419 (13-for-31) with six homers.

“Like I always say, the mentality is to try to be aggressive at the plate,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “If he leaves a pitch over the plate, I’m going to try to do my best.”

Yet, the threat wasn’t over. Six pitches later, Abreu barreled a Bradford fastball and sent it a Statcast-projected 438 feet over the visiting bullpen, giving Houston a 7-3 lead at the time.

“It was important to me to have a really good swing in that at-bat,” Abreu said. “I was trying to put the team in a better position than it already was. The pitch was in the location that I wanted it, and I was able to get it.”

Abreu is the first player to slug three homers that traveled 430 or more feet in the same postseason since Statcast began tracking in 2015.

Said Alvarez: “I was very happy. Both of us couldn’t have missed them. I couldn’t get it done, so he was able to get it done.”

Alvarez and Abreu are the first pair of teammates to tally four or more home runs and 10 or more RBIs through their team’s first eight games of a postseason.

“Amazing,” said Altuve, who doubled twice and singled to notch his 10th career postseason game with three or more hits, tied for third all time. “I think [Abreu] has more big things to do this postseason, because he’s enjoying what he’s doing. He likes his big moments.”

Chas McCormick added a two-run homer in the seventh for the Astros, who set a postseason franchise record with eight hits with runners in scoring position and have tallied 18 runs since arriving in Arlington. They were held to four runs in the first two games of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park.

“When you have Abreu going and Alvarez and Altuve going, it’s tough to beat us,” McCormick said. “We’ve done that all year. We’re not surprised that we’ve played well here the past two games.”

Abreu secured another historical nugget by stealing second base in the eighth inning, his first swipe since 2021. At 36 years and 263 days old, Abreu is the second-oldest player to homer and steal a base in a postseason game, behind Fred Clarke of the 1909 Pirates.

“The Houston Astros never give up,” Abreu said. “I think it’s very important to give credit to the guys in this organization that never give up. It was up to us to be able to turn this around.”