Yordan and Reggie Jackson are on a postseason list by themselves

'He's a force': Astros slugger earns high praise from Mr. October

October 11th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- The best move for opposing managers at this point may be to hold up four fingers and point toward first base when comes to the plate in a big spot. Challenging the Astros' slugger with pitches in the strike zone is proving to be a foolhardy exercise. Just ask the Twins.

Alvarez went 3-for-5 with two doubles and his fourth home run of the American League Division Series, driving in a pair of runs in the Astros’ 9-1 Game 3 win over Minnesota on Tuesday night -- a performance that bolstered his postseason legend. In the three ALDS games, Alvarez is hitting .500 (6-for-12) with four homers, six RBIs and 20 total bases.

“He thrives on the big moment, and they did pitch him well,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “But if you can hit, you can hit. There aren't a whole bunch of hitters around, but he's one of the top hitters in baseball, and he has a tremendous amount of concentration. He has a very short stroke to be such a big man. I mean, most big men have longer swings. He's very quiet and confident.”

Alvarez’s four homers are tied for the third-most in a best-of-five postseason series, behind only Juan Gonzalez (five in the 1996 ALDS) and Ken Griffey Jr. (five in the '95 ALDS). The four homers also are tied for the most in a player’s first three playoff games, along with Gonzalez and Bob Robertson ('71).

“He’s incredible,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “He can hit a bunch of different types of pitches, he can hit for power from line to line and he hits for a high average. He swings at strikes. He’s incredible.”

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli conceded it could be time to find a different approach against Alvarez, but it doesn’t help when José Abreu, who’s hitting behind him, goes 2-for-5 with a homer and five RBIs like he did in Game 3.

“There are times where I think it's very, very much the right play to go out there and pitch to him, and there are other times where it might not be,” Baldelli said. “It's going to depend on the game. It's going to depend on how everything plays out. I thought we actually pitched him fine for much of the game today.

“He lofted that home run out there to right field. He finds different ways to find the barrel and make things happen. He was also the guy, I believe, that hit the ground ball that ended up getting through. Again, I thought we pitched him fine today. He still finds ways to be productive, but I thought we were OK.”

Alvarez had the two biggest hits of last year’s World Series run for the Astros -- a three-run walk-off homer to beat the Mariners in Game 1 of the ALDS and a 450-foot, three-run blast to put the Astros ahead in Game 6 of the World Series against the Phillies. It’s the kind of stuff that would make Reggie Jackson, aka Mr. October, stand up and take notice.

In fact, it did.

“He’s a force, buddy,” Jackson said postgame on Tuesday. “He’s nice to have on your side.”

Jackson, a special advisor to Astros owner Jim Crane, was munching on some postgame sushi in the clubhouse when he was informed by a reporter that he and Alvarez are the only players in history with at least six extra-base hits and at least four homers in a three-game span in any postseason, according to OptaSTATs.

“He’s very comfortable,” Jackson said. “Very seldom do I say something to him about his swing. I can see when he’s comfortable, and when he’s comfortable he’s going to make real good passes all the time. Today and the last few days, I said very little to him -- just keep going. I call him [my twin], for the 44 [jersey] number and the way he swings the bat.”

When asked where Alvarez may rank among the best hitters he’s seen, Jackson rattled off a long list of Hall of Famers, ranging from Hank Aaron to Carl Yastrzemski, before conceding that Alvarez is starting to make his way along a special path.

“He gets better as it gets tougher,” Jackson said. “Good hitters, great hitters, if you have to pitch to them, you're going to get hurt.”