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Astros take G1 on 2 HRs, Alvarez's discipline

@brianmctaggart
August 13, 2019

CHICAGO -- Amid the tape-measure home runs and historic RBI numbers that have dominated the Yordan Alvarez storyline since his thunderous arrival to the big leagues on June 9, the rookie slugger’s plate discipline has been advanced for his age and experience. Alvarez, the front-runner for American League Rookie of

CHICAGO -- Amid the tape-measure home runs and historic RBI numbers that have dominated the Yordan Alvarez storyline since his thunderous arrival to the big leagues on June 9, the rookie slugger’s plate discipline has been advanced for his age and experience.

Alvarez, the front-runner for American League Rookie of the Year, is more than just a burly masher. Inside the quiet Cuban’s 6-foot-5 frame is a polished hitter who has a good understanding of the strike zone and isn’t afraid to take his walks.

Box score

With Alvarez drawing two free passes -- including his second intentional walk of the season -- the Astros drew a season-high 10 walks and used solo homers by George Springer and José Altuve to back the pitching of Zack Greinke for a 6-2 win over the White Sox in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Tuesday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“There were baserunners on both sides, and we were able to capitalize on our side and keep them from scoring,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Greinke did a really good job of pitching through a lot of baserunners, and when we had a chance, we had a couple of big home runs early to score and a couple of big walks and big hits late to come out with a nice win.”

The Astros entered Tuesday ranked third in the Major Leagues with 449 walks, trailing only the Dodgers (458) and Red Sox (450). Three batters who reached via the walk on Tuesday scored, including Alvarez with the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria intentionally walked Alvarez in the first inning to set up a double play. The strategy worked, with the red-hot Yuli Gurriel hitting into a 5-4-3 double play.

“Alvarez is a pretty good hitter,” Renteria said. “So I just figured we would go right on right, give us the best chance. I know Gurriel is a really good hitter. If you look up and down their lineup, they are all pretty hot except for maybe a couple of guys who are still swinging the bat pretty good.”

Hinch, who has yet to walk a batter intentionally this season, said that free pass worked out for the White Sox, but that it won’t always be the case if opponents pitch around Alvarez.

“We’re going to need guys to hit around him as well,” Hinch said. “As long as he stays disciplined and stays in his approach, it’s time for somebody else to do something.”

Springer crushed the first pitch of the game 467 feet into the left-field seats, and Altuve led off the third inning with a homer for a 2-0 lead.

Greinke (12-4), making his second start after being acquired in a trade with the D-backs on July 31, wasn’t particularly sharp, but he was still good enough to win. He held the White Sox to two runs and seven hits and struck out six batters in six innings for career win No. 199. Astros starters improved to 19-1 with a 2.33 ERA in the team’s last 23 games.

“A lot of leadoff guys got on -- hit by pitch and a couple of soft hits,” Greinke said. “It was not a normal way of getting on base, but they got on and really just made good pitches. We played really good defense -- the first-inning double play was one of the better ones I’ve seen. It won't get much credit. And we threw a guy out at home.”

Springer saved a run by making a great defensive play to cut down Welington Castillo at the plate with a 96.3-mph throw from right field, according to Statcast, and a good tag from catcher Robinson Chirinos, who took a hard hit and held on to the ball.

“We play our outfield depth a little aggressive toward home there,” Hinch said. “Good outfielders, accurate throws, slower baserunner all in our favor. Chirinos makes a great play at home and holds on for the tag. That ended up being really good at that part of the game.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.