MVP Alvarez (.522) unstoppable in ALCS

October 26th, 2021

HOUSTON -- At this time last year, was building back his strength from surgery on not one, but both of his knees. Because of health and safety protocols, he couldn’t even be with the Astros as they marched their way through the American League playoffs, falling one win shy of another Fall Classic appearance.

The absence created a huge psychological void for Alvarez and inspired him to return stronger and better than ever. The ultimate goal will be a World Series title, but the 24-year-old is off to a promising start in achieving those ambitions.

Alvarez was named the MVP of the AL Championship Series after going 4-for-4 on Friday night in the Astros’ pennant-clinching 5-0 win in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. By ousting the Red Sox, Houston advanced to the World Series for the third time in five years.

Alvarez hit .522 (12-for-23) with a homer, five extra-base hits, seven runs scored, six RBIs and a 1.408 OPS in the series.

Alvarez became the fourth Cuban-born player to be named MVP of a League Championship Series in either league, following the Rays’ Randy Arozarena in 2020, the Yankees’ Orlando Hernández in 1999 and the Marlins’ Liván Hernández in 1997. He also became the fifth Astros player with a four-hit game in a potential postseason clincher.

“Really, it was incredible,” Alvarez said through interpreter Andrew Dunn-Bauman. “I didn't really imagine myself being able to come out of that surgery on both knees and be able to do this as quickly as I did. So it was really unbelievable for me to be able to come back and do what I did, but [I’m] just super happy to be here and be able to contribute like that.”

On a night when pitching put both offenses on a tightrope, Houston's slugging left fielder/designated hitter came through in a huge way. His RBI double in the first inning opened the scoring, and he roped a sixth-inning triple before scoring the game's second run on a double-play grounder.

Alvarez’s heads-up baserunning in that sequence proved to be the crucial component leading to the run. Boston first baseman Kyle Schwarber got tangled up in his attempt to field ’s batted ball and tag out , who was leading off first. Cognizant of that, Alvarez surged home and beat Schwarber’s throw handily.

This all followed Alvarez’s epic showing in Game 5 of the ALCS, when Alvarez managed three hits off Red Sox ace Chris Sale to become the first lefty hitter in more than six years to tag Sale for three hits. That forced Boston to its bullpen earlier than expected and allowed the rest of the Astros’ lineup to break open the game with a five-spot in the sixth inning.

“Yordan was something else,” said Astros starting pitcher , who directly benefited from Alvarez’s run support. “He was really clutch, everything. I'm happy for him.”

Next up for Alvarez: the World Series and a stage he first saw as a wide-eyed rookie two years ago against the Nationals. Alvarez wound up finishing that World Series on a strong individual note, but his struggles from that year’s ALCS, as well as his defensive limitations, prompted then-Astros manager A.J. Hinch not to start Alvarez in Games 3 and 4 at Washington.

In that year’s seven-game ALCS against the Yankees, Alvarez went 1-for-22 with 12 strikeouts, well off the production he showed in the regular season that led to him unanimously winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

But this postseason, Alvarez has flipped the script. He wasn’t in the Majors when the Astros won it all in 2017, but he was when they came up just short two years later. His latest episode has been perhaps the best -- and there’s still another chapter to write. 

“Ever since the news came out, the bad news that we've had to deal with about what happened in 2017, I think we've all wanted to prove what kind of class of players that we are and team that we are,” Alvarez said.

“I wasn't here with the team in 2017, but I've gotten booed just as equally as anybody else. So I think we all have the same mentality that we really want to win a World Series to demonstrate that we are just a great team. And that what wins a championship, is just the talent that we have on this club.”