'We needed it': Alvarez breaks slump with HR

July 20th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Earlier this year, Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez put down a bunt single to break himself out of a mini batting slump. His method of getting himself out of a funk at the plate Monday night against the Indians was a little more customary for him.

Alvarez clubbed a towering two-run homer into Minute Maid Park’s upper deck in the fifth inning -- his 17th of the season -- that snapped an 0-for-22 drought and wound up being the difference-maker in the Astros’ 4-3 win over the Indians.

“It’s fun to be able to break out of a slump, obviously,” Alvarez said. “It’s not a great place to be and I wanted to get out. It reminds me of a phrase my dad always told me: ‘To get out of it, you either do it with a homer or you do it with a bunt,’ and I was able to do it with a home run tonight.”

The homer by Alvarez off Indians starter J.C. Mejia traveled 409 feet, according to Statcast, and had an exit velocity of 111.1 mph -- the hardest-hit ball of the game, giving Houston a 4-1 lead. Alvarez just missed a homer in his next at-bat in the seventh, when he lined a ball off the top of the right-field wall that wound up being a double.

“We needed it, and boy, that was the difference in the game, especially when you’re thinking the whole game of leaving those runners out there on third [with] less than two outs, and it’s going to cost us and almost did,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ve still got to get better at picking them up.”

On April 10, against the A’s at Minute Maid Park, Alvarez rolled a perfectly placed bunt up the third-base line to beat the shift and break an 0-for-8 slump. It was the first time in his career he had ever put down a bunt. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his bunt single was that it came against A’s left-handed sidearmer Jake Diekman, who threw a 91 mph four-seam fastball that Alvarez -- a left-handed hitter -- had no trouble squaring up and dropping down.

The pitch Alvarez clubbed for a homer against Cleveland was an 85 mph changeup that was up in the zone. The slugger turned on the pitch and showed the fruits of the work he has been doing with hitting coach Alex Cintron in recent days.

“Nice to see him swing the bat,” Baker said. “He and Cintron have been working tirelessly, trying to find the keys to find out what’s wrong to get him back on track. On the road trip, he was fouling a lot of balls off that was putting him in two-strike situations, where if he would have put them in play some, he never would have gotten to two strikes.

“He was underneath the ball a lot. Cintron has been going crazy watching video and hitting with him and hopefully, tonight we found something.”

Alvarez said he wasn’t doing anything drastically different.

“It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to be in the box, but that’s part of baseball,” he said. “I was making adjustments that were able to help me out in that at-bat right there.”

Alvarez, who fouled a ball off his right foot in the third inning, pulled up at second base following his double in the seventh with a tight hamstring. Baker said Alvarez should have slid at second to avoid having to stop so quickly at the base. Alvarez remained in the game, but will be re-evaluated by trainers on Tuesday, Baker said.

“The foul off the foot, I don’t think it was anything serious, anything to worry about,” Alvarez said. “The hamstring felt a little tight right after that play, but I don’t think it’s anything serious either or anything to worry about. If I wake up and feel good, like I do right now, I’ll have a chance to play tomorrow.”