Alvarez's high-velocity night includes homer, two doubles

June 9th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- Nobody was safe in Angel Stadium on Saturday night from the thunderous swings of slugger . Not Angels starter Tyler Anderson, who gave up a double and a homer, and certainly not hard-throwing reliever Ben Joyce, who couldn’t blow a 103.9 mph fastball past Alvarez in the eighth inning.

Alvarez hit Joyce’s fastest pitch of the game the other way for a double and came around to score on an RBI single by Yainer Diaz on a 103.1 mph fastball from Joyce -- a pair of impressive swings that put the finishing touches on the Astros’ 6-1 win over the Angels.

“I was trying to pull the ball and I hit it the other way,” Alvarez joked.

Alvarez’s first-inning double was 110.7 mph off the bat and his fifth-inning homer to right field had only a 98.1 mph exit velocity -- his slowest hit ball of the night. His hardest-hit ball? A 112.3 mph lineout to right field in the ninth.

“I think a swing like that just gives me good energy and it tells me the swing is in the right spot,” Alvarez said. “It makes me feel more positive about my swing.”

Behind Alvarez’s three extra-base hits, two runs and two RBIs, as well as six scoreless innings from starting pitcher Hunter Brown, the Astros won for the fourth time in five games to move within one-half game of the Rangers for second place in the American League West.

“I think it hasn’t been a surprise for anyone to see us have high and lows and have some good moments and bad moments,” Alvarez said. “I think to this point, we have a lot of guys that have experience in the playoffs, that have been through these moments. We played some good baseball and I think there’s going to be a spot where we are going to all click and when all is said and done, we’re going to be the ones to have the last laugh.”

Alvarez’s double in the eighth off the Joyce heater is the fourth-fastest pitch to end up as a hit since tracking began, including the playoffs (since 2008). The three that were hit on harder pitches were all off Aroldis Chapman at 104.2 mph.

“He’s obviously one of the best hitters in baseball,” Joyce said. “They can catch up to that stuff so it was just about being better with my offspeed [pitches] and setting that up a little better and I think the result could have been different.”

Alvarez is slashing .367/.430/.633 with six homers and 15 RBIs in his last 28 games, raising his batting average from .239 to .296 in that span. Houston has gone 17-11 in games in which Alvarez has played since May 9.

“He’s been hitting the ball hard the last couple of weeks,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “I think now he’s actually starting to just get the ball in the air and start driving the ball. A lot of the balls he was hitting a couple of weeks ago were hard on the ground. He was chasing some pitches up in the zone, and now he’s finding his zone and swinging strikes, and when he does that he’s a really scary hitter.”

Brown delivers again

One night after left-hander Framber Valdez threw a complete game, Brown needed a season-high 98 pitches to throw six scoreless innings for his fourth consecutive quality start. He allowed two hits and four walks and struck out seven batters.

Brown pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the first by striking out Matt Thaiss on a 98.2 mph fastball -- a pitch Espada said was “explosive.” Brown averaged 96.6 mph with his four-seamer, hitting 98.5 mph.

“I told him when he got off the mound, that’s a sign of a pitcher maturing and figuring out ways to get people out when you don’t have your stuff,” Espada said. “We needed that from him.”

Brown has a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts, but the team had lost his previous three starts. Astros starters have posted a 2.83 ERA and .191 batting average against in the team’s last 16 games since May 22. It’s coming at the right time, considering the Astros had two pitchers undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery (José Urquidy and Cristian Javier) this week.

“We’re trying to keep it going,” Brown said. “We’ve been playing some good baseball and it’s nice to contribute to that personally.”