3-homer game for Astros phenom Alvarez

Slugger leads Houston to franchise-record 23 runs on historic night

August 11th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- was asked what went well for him Saturday night.

“It’s not obvious?” he said in Spanish with a laugh and beaming smile. “The three home runs. Thank goodness.”

With the kind of comically impressive tear he’s been on to start his career, there’s little that hasn’t worked well for Alvarez. His three homers in Saturday’s 23-2 drubbing of the Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards propelled him to 51 RBIs in his brief career. That's the most by any player in his first 45 career games, surpassing Ted Williams’ mark of 47 in 1939.

But now, it’s Alvarez that future rookies will look to top.

“Yordan is special, watching from afar,” said winning pitcher Aaron Sanchez, who tossed five one-run innings in his second start with the Astros. "And now I get to see him every night. … To follow this guy’s career is going to be something special, for sure.”

Alvarez wasn't the only rookie in MLB to hit three homers on Saturday night. The Reds' Aristides Aquino, in just his 10th career game, belted three homers in Cincinnati's win over the Cubs. It's the first time in Major League history that two rookies hit three home runs on the same day.

Alvarez’s career night -- which featured a solo homer in the first, a grand slam in the seventh and a two-run blast off Orioles center fielder Stevie Wilkerson in the ninth -- was just a taste of the history set by the Astros on Saturday. The Astros also:

• Set a franchise record for most runs in a game (23)

• Set a franchise record for most extra-base hits in a game (13)

• Became the first Major League team this season with 20 runs in a game

• Tied the franchise record for most hits in a game (25)

• Tied the franchise record for most homers in a nine-inning game (6)

• Extended their franchise record for grand slams in a season (11)

“It’s really hard to explain what happened today,” said Jose Altuve, who hit his 20th homer of the season in the second inning.

“When something goes well for one of us,” Alvarez added through team interpreter Oz Ozcampo, “it goes well for all of us.”

In all, Houston batted 22 balls with an exit velocity over 95 mph, which is Statcast's threshold for a hard-hit ball. None traveled farther than Carlos Correa's solo homer in the third inning. His 474-foot blast stands as the longest ever tracked at Camden Yards.

But it’s Alvarez, the rookie phenom who’s taken the baseball world by storm, that continues to impress his teammates and fans. Saturday wasn’t Alvarez’s first three-homer game this year -- he hit three with Triple-A Round Rock on April 6, his second game of the season. Especially now, with all the hype and expectations that follow Alvarez, Astros manager AJ Hinch balks at all this talk of records.

“I just don't think we should ever put limitations or even expectations on guys,” he said. “Let’s wait to see how they do. And he’s obviously gotten off to an incredible start to his career, in doing things at a pace that incredible.”

Most impressive to Hinch? That this game from Alvarez came only a day after what could be considered, only for him, a lackluster night at the plate Friday: 1-for-4 with an RBI and two strikeouts.

“The way that he puts his at-bats together -- the production, the calmness,” Hinch said. “He’s an intelligent hitter at a young age, and he doesn't miss his pitches that he’s looking for. I like how he responded to a little bit of swing and miss last night. He comes in tonight and [has] good at-bats from the beginning."

He’s slotted seamlessly into a lineup more powerful than ever, and now winners of eight in a row. Altuve said Alvarez belongs squarely in the conversation for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

“What he’s doing, it’s awesome,” Altuve said. “It’s hard to believe. He’s probably one of the best young hitters in baseball right now. But what I like about him is how humble and how hard he works every day.”