The conversations happen nearly every day, in different ballparks and across thousands of miles. Lourdes Gurriel Sr. talks to both of his big league sons almost daily and offers advice and support. Soon, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. of the Blue Jays and Yuli Gurriel of the Astros are talking with each other, too, and sharing notes on their swings and the opposing pitchers.
The result? The Gurriel brothers have emerged as a dynamic duo that have been two of the hottest hitters in baseball over the past month. Yuli, who hit an inside-the-park home run Tuesday night (his fourth in the last five games), is slashing .394/.430/.915 with 14 home runs over the past 30 days. Over that same span, Lourdes is batting .296/.333/.643 with nine home runs.
The brothers, who defected from Cuba in 2016, are living out their father’s dream of playing in the Major Leagues, and they’re playing at the same kind of level he did as a baseball legend in Cuba from the 1970s through the early '90s.
“Every day and every night, we try to help each other and talk after each game,” Yuli said. “He tells me what I did wrong. I tell him what he did wrong and what we need to improve upon and all that. Every day we’re constantly trying to get better.”
The brotherly love is having terrific results.
The hot streak has Yuli, on a 12-game hitting streak, up to .294/.328/.528 with 20 homers and 65 RBIs for the Astros entering Wednesday, while Lourdes Jr. is now at .290/.336/.592 with 18 homers and 44 RBIs for the Blue Jays.
“I watch him every day, but I knew all along that he was capable of what he’s doing right now, and I really hope that he continues this way,” Lourdes Jr. said.
The Gurriels are having the kind of season that few brother combinations have had in the big leagues.
They’ve combined for 38 home runs and could threaten the record for most combined homers by brothers in a season of 61 by Jason (41) and Jeremy (20) Giambi in 2002. The last time a pair of brothers each had at least 20 homers in a season was Corey and Kyle Seager in '16 and '17. Before the Seager brothers, that feat had been accomplished seven previous times in Major League history.
“We don’t have goals, numbers-wise,” Lourdes Jr. said. “We’re just going to keep going out there and trying to put up the numbers and see what happens at the end of the year.”
Both brothers defected from Cuba following the Caribbean Series in February 2016. Eighteen months later, Yuli made his Major League debut with the Astros at 32 years old, and in his first full season in the big leagues in '17, he helped the Astros win the World Series. Lourdes Jr. signed with Toronto prior to the '17 season and made his Major League debut last April.
Although Yuli (35) is more than nine years older than Lourdes (25), the brothers are close. And there’s no denying they’re brothers. They both have similar physical features, from their batting stances to their hair: Yuli is known in Houston as La Pina -- the Pineapple -- for his spiked hair.
“In our conversations, we talk a lot of baseball, we talk about pitchers we’re going to face, teams we’re going to face, and kind of give each other a heads up on that,” Lourdes Jr. said. “But other than that, we also talk about little things, family things and personal things.”
Yuli isn’t too proud to take advice from his little brother.
“He’s always helping me,” he said. “Even though he’s younger, he’s got a mature vision and so he’s always giving me advice and giving me information to help me out.”
When asked who will have the better career, Lourdes Jr. said their father might have an idea. Lourdes Jr. figures to have a longer career in the Major Leagues because Yuli got a later start. He played 15 seasons in the Serie Nacional and was a fixture on the national team, helping his country win gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and appearing in the first three World Baseball Classics before coming to the U.S.
“My dad has a goal for us, but it’s a secret,” Lourdes Jr. said. “He knows who’s going to end up with better numbers, but of course he won’t tell us. I actually didn’t ask him, but right now I think my brother’s maybe going to be a little bit better, but we’ll see.”