Yordan's historic go-ahead HR gives Astros 2-0 lead

Slugger belts two-run shot in 6th, then gets intentionally walked with runner on first in 8th

October 15th, 2022

HOUSTON -- We’ve reached the point in Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez’s young career that he’s getting the kind of respect -- or is it fear or terror? -- that was once reserved for Barry Bonds, who routinely was given intentional walks with runners on base during his Giants heyday so opposing managers didn’t have to watch him hit tape-measure homers.

Alvarez, who hit a monumental walk-off three-run homer to beat the Mariners in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, socked an opposite-field two-run homer off Luis Castillo in the sixth inning to put the Astros ahead and send them to a 4-2 win over Seattle in Game 2 on Thursday afternoon at Minute Maid Park. That prompted Mariners manager Scott Servais to walk him with a runner on first base later in the game, but Alvarez’s damage was done.

Behind Alvarez, who became the first player in postseason history with multiple career go-ahead homers in the sixth inning or later when his team was trailing, the Astros have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five ALDS.

“That was some Barry Bonds-type stuff there,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of the intentional walk in the eighth inning. “I mean, that's the ultimate respect. … I've seen that a bunch of times, but not in a long time since Barry Bonds.”

Baker should know. He managed Bonds with the Giants when the slugger was putting the same kind of fear into opposing managers as is Alvarez, who is the first player to draw an intentional walk in postseason history with a runner on first (and no runners on second or third) since Bonds in Game 3 of the 2003 National League Division Series.

“Obviously, he has done some damage against us in this series,” Servais said. “He's hot right now. You've got to recognize that. I think you kind of game plan in how you want to go through their lineup and the guys you want to be careful with.”

In the history of best-of-five postseason series, teams that take a 2-0 lead have gone on to win the series 77 of 87 times (89%). (Of the 10 teams to come back, the most recent was the 2017 Yankees against Cleveland). In Division Series with the current 2-2-1 format, teams winning both Games 1 and 2 in their home ballparks have advanced 30 of 33 times (91%), with 19 finishing off the sweep in Game 3.

The Astros will head to Seattle for Saturday’s Game 3 needing one win to advance to their sixth consecutive AL Championship Series. Lance McCullers Jr. will start for Houston in the first playoff game in Seattle since 2001.

“They have great fans there,” Alex Bregman said. “They're going to show up. It's going to be loud and it's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be postseason baseball. They have a really good team. It's going to be just a great atmosphere. I know the guys are excited to go play and look forward to getting out there.”

Alvarez put the Astros ahead, 3-2, in the sixth inning when he sent a 98.3 mph sinker from Castillo into the Crawford Boxes in left field for a two-run homer. Castillo had allowed only three baserunners prior to that -- a solo homer by Kyle Tucker in the second, a double by Jeremy Peña in the fourth and a bloop single to Peña ahead of Alvarez’s homer.

“I think that he was having a great game,” Alvarez said. “He's a great pitcher. But I faced him twice earlier in the game and went up there just trying to look for a good pitch to make good contact on, and that was the one that I got, and thankfully, I was able to connect there.”

Castillo said he was surprised Alvarez was able to put the barrel on a ball that was about four inches off the plate.

“It was surprising [based on] where the pitch was,” Castillo said. “All merit to him. He was able to contact it and score a home run, put 'em up, 3-2. But I think that we did a very good job against him.”

When Peña drew a two-out walk in the eighth against reliever Andrés Muñoz, Servais walked Alvarez even though first base wasn’t open. The move backfired, with Bregman shooting an RBI single to right field for a 4-2 Astros lead.

“That was a decision that they [made], but I felt very glad that Bregman came behind me and was able to get the job done,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez’s postseason heroics are nothing new. Last year’s ALCS Most Valuable Player, Alvarez has a career .292/.399/.517 slash line in the postseason with five homers, 19 RBIs and two intentional walks -- including one with a runner at first base.

“He's one of the best hitters in the world,” Bregman said. “I think that's a sign of respect for how good he is.”