Dad strength: Yordan's 2 HRs power Astros

July 7th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez admitted he hadn’t been getting much sleep since the birth of his son Friday. That didn’t stop him from returning to the lineup Tuesday and putting on the kind of performance that likely sent A’s starting pitcher Chris Bassitt to a sleepless night.

Alvarez, in his first game off the paternity list, keyed the Astros’ biggest comeback of the season by hitting a pair of home runs, including a three-run, game-tying shot in the fifth inning, to send Houston to its fifth win in a row, 9-6, over the A’s at Minute Maid Park.

“It’s exciting to be able to play that role in the game, to be down by a bit in the game and to be able with one swing, one big hit, return it to a [tie] game pretty much is huge,” Alvarez said. “It’s a very exciting moment for me.”

The Astros (53-33), who entered the game with a season-high 3 1/2-game lead over Oakland (49-38) in the American League West, trailed, 6-2, after the A’s teed off on Houston starter Framber Valdez. Alvarez kept the Astros in the game with a two-run homer to center in the first that traveled 420 feet.

“I’m happy for Yordan and the birth of his child, and I think he did a good job celebrating it tonight,” Valdez said.

Alvarez, who was intentionally walked in the sixth and was on deck in the top of the ninth, finished 3-for-3 with three runs scored and five RBIs. He’s slashing .310/.396/.611 with 44 homers and 138 RBIs in his first 159 games in the Major Leagues. 

“He’s an amazing hitter overall,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “He can walk, he can hit doubles, homers. You don’t really know what to expect from him, because he’s so good and personally, I’m happy that he’s part of our team.” 

Alvarez, playing for the first time since Thursday’s series opener in Cleveland, is hitting .338 with eight homers and 22 RBIs in his last 19 games.  

“We missed him in the games he [missed],” Altuve said. “He came back today and those two homers, I think they were the key for us winning the game. The whole team is happy that he’s back.”

Trailing 6-3 in the fifth inning, Alvarez sent a three-run homer into the Crawford Boxes in left for his second multi-homer game of the season, chasing Bassitt. The Astros tacked on three more in the sixth, including a two-run single by Altuve.

“I wasn’t up there looking for any specific pitch in particular,” Alvarez said of his game-tying homer. “I wanted to make good contact on the ball in the situation, a [3-1] count, and I was looking for a good pitch to be able to hit, and that’s what I was able to do.

Bassitt entered the game 9-0 with a 2.74 ERA in his previous 15 starts, with the A’s winning 13 of those starts. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings, giving up a season-high six runs. He had allowed four runs or fewer in each of his last 28 starts (since September 2019).

“That whole lineup’s disgusting, but when you don't have your stuff, good luck,” Bassitt said. “Obviously, Alvarez is really good, but I mean, it's not just Alvarez. It’s [Michael] Brantley, it's Altuve, [Alex] Bregman when he's healthy, [Carlos] Correa … I mean, not saying Alvarez isn’t elite. He's really good -- a lot of power, but if you don't have stuff on your pitches and you're missing location, you're screwed.”

Tuesday’s game was Alvarez’s 12th start of the season in left field, all of which have come since June 2. The Astros were careful with him in the spring and early in the season after he had surgery on both knees in the offseason, but he’s looked comfortable in left, and he said it helps him stay locked in offensively. He’s hitting .398 while playing left field and .296 at DH this year. 

“I think overall, it helps me stay active and helps my body stay in athletic shape, rather than just sitting in the dugout between every at-bat,” he said. “I’m getting more movement, and it helps me stay in rhythm at the plate.”