Healthy Alvarez shows '19 form with 1st HR

Young star powers Astros to 3rd straight win with 404-foot dinger

April 4th, 2021

Prior to the Astros’ 9-1 win over the A’s on Saturday, Houston manager Dusty Baker said he eventually wanted to move up in the batting order, but added, “Not yet.”

That time may be coming soon.

In the Astros’ first two wins of the season, the top three in the order were having all the fun. A trio of Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman combined to score 14 of the Astros’ 17 runs, hitting .583 with three homers and seven RBIs.

Alvarez did his part on Saturday to spread the wealth a little more evenly. The designated hitter, hitting sixth, was 3-for-5 and launched a three-run, 404-foot home run off Lou Trivino that gave the Astros a 5-1 lead, their first healthy advantage of the game.

“He’s getting better every day, swinging more and more like we [have seen] Alvarez of the past,” Baker said. “He's moving around pretty good. That's a big ballpark out there. The dimensions aren’t that big but you have to hit it up, and the air’s heavy.”

The ball left Alvarez’s bat at 108.6 mph, the fourth-hardest hit ball of the game from either team.

“A lot of talk is, ‘Are they the same team without [George] Springer?’” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “But they didn’t have Alvarez last year. He does some damage. He’s a tough guy to try to navigate around. The momentum shifted on one pitch.”

That’s not to say Alvarez was a one-man show in this win. The top of the order continued to mash, just with a slightly different cast. , who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in place of an injured Brantley, logged his first Major League hit with an RBI double in the ninth, and , subbing at third base for a resting Bregman, slid into the three-hole and was 3-for-5 with a run-scoring base hit in the Astros’ four-run pile-on in that final inning.

Alvarez, meanwhile, is quietly entering historical territory, even this early in the season. The 23-year-old slugger has 88 RBIs, the fourth-most by any player in history after their first 92 games. Walt Dropo tops the list at 95, followed by Rudy York (94), Joe DiMaggio (90), Alvarez and Ted Williams (87).

In other words, Alvarez appears to have picked up where he left off in 2019, when he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award after hitting 27 homers with 78 RBIs in 87 games. His ‘20 season was lost to surgeries on both knees at the end of August, sidelining him for the rest of the year.

His absence created a gap in an otherwise impenetrable Houston lineup.

“I think the biggest thing for me was to work on being healthy,” Alvarez said through a club interpreter. “I feel really good right now that it helped me be in the form that I'm in, that I was hoping to be in coming into the season.”

Getting off to a good start is helpful, though Alvarez insisted that was not on his mind as he suited up for the first series of the regular season in Oakland.

“I was never too worried about it,” he said. “I wasn't really worried coming into the season. I just focused on doing my job the right way, and things are going to turn out the right way.”

With the finale looming on Sunday, the Astros have not trailed at any point in the first three games of the series and have outscored Oakland, 26-7. They’re 3-0 for the first time since they won their first three games in 2017; if they win Sunday, they’ll begin the season 4-0 for just the second time in the past two decades. The ‘01 club also won its first four.

Houston has scored at least eight runs in each of the first three games for the second time in club history, having last done this in 2001.

“Everything starts in the clubhouse,” Alvarez said. “The adrenaline that we're feeling in the clubhouse right now -- everybody's focused on the task at hand and focused on winning. So I think just that focus and motivation to keep winning is really what has us this way right now.”