5 games. 4 homers. History for Astros phenom
Rookie leads balanced attack by young Houston lineup to back Valdez's sterling start
HOUSTON -- The Astros keep on winning. And rookie sensation Yordan Alvarez keeps on hitting homers.
Alvarez became only the fourth player in Major League history to slug at least four home runs in his first five career games when he took Blue Jays starter Clayton Richard deep in the third inning of the Astros’ 7-2 win Saturday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
The 21-year-old phenom joins Trevor Story (six in 2016), Yasiel Puig (four in '13) and Mike Jacobs (four in '05) as the only players in MLB history with at least four home runs in their first five career games.
“I’m probably having about as hard a time describing him as you’re having writing about him,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “He’s having an enormous impact for us -- that goes without saying. It’s been very impressive to watch him methodically go about his business [like] a much more experienced player than he is. He’s soaking up all the information that we have, he’s leaning on teammates and he’s in the batter’s box and in complete control of the at-bat. His productivity has been sensational.”
Alvarez, starting in left field for the first time in his career, crushed an 0-2 slider and sailed it an estimated 439 feet into the upper deck in right-center field, according to Statcast. The ball left the bat at 109.6 mph. Alvarez is the third-youngest player in history to have eight RBIs in his first five games and the first player in Astros history to score a run in his first five games in the Majors.
“It’s super, super impressive,” All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman said. “He’s got an unbelievable swing and approach at the plate. He has so much trust at the plate for a young hitter that he knows what he’s good at, he knows what pitches he’s going to hit, he looks for them and, right now, he’s not missing them. It couldn’t happen to a better guy, either. He’s an unbelievable kid.”
Alvarez, though, takes it all in stride. He joked in Spanish with his teammates as he approached a group of reporters after the game while wearing a straw hat that was given out to the fans. He’s clearly comfortable in the big leagues.
“I certainly didn’t expect this, but obviously I’ve worked hard to get to this point and everything that I do, I have high expectations for myself based off the work I’ve done,” he said.
Perhaps the most impressive thing is how Alvarez has maintained great plate discipline. He’s struck out five times and walked six in his 23 plate appearances in the Majors.
“He’s like a rookie inside a veteran’s body,” said second baseman Jack Mayfield, who played with Alvarez most of this season at Triple-A Round Rock. “He’s a monster up there and pitchers know what he’s got already and he’s still getting all those hits and homers. All the work he’s put in in Triple-A and here is finally showing off. I couldn't be more proud of him. We’re all just trying to keep up with him right now.”
Coming into the game, Alvarez had one career plate appearance against a lefty (a walk), before hitting into a double play in his first at-bat Saturday. Alvarez added singles in the fifth and seventh to finish 3-for-4 for the second consecutive game.
The Astros also got contributions from fellow rookies Mayfield (three doubles), Myles Straw (2-for-4) and starting pitcher Framber Valdez, who held the Blue Jays to two runs and struck out a season-high eight batters in six innings. Veteran outfielder Josh Reddick also homered for his 500th career RBI.
“To put together as many wins as we’re putting together and win as many series as we're winning, we’re going to need different contributions and we’re obviously getting them,” Hinch said.