Astros foresaw Alvarez's moment: 'You're the man today'

Slugger belts 450-ft. go-ahead HR after rocky stretch in postseason

November 6th, 2022

HOUSTON -- didn’t know he was in for a big night in Game 6 of the World Series, but apparently everyone else around him had an inkling what was about to happen.

Long before Alvarez hit a majestic 450-foot home run that all but sealed the Astros’ World Series title with a 4-1 win over the Phillies on Saturday, he was approached by three key members of this soon-to-be championship team, all with the same message.

It started hours before first pitch with Jose Altuve, who stopped Alvarez as he was entering the clubhouse.

“'My dad told me you’re going to be the man of the game,'” Alvarez said through an interpreter, recalling what Altuve had said to him. “'You’re going to win this game today.'”

Alvarez then walked into the clubhouse, “and [Alex] Bregman said the same thing to me,” Alvarez said, laughing. “And then I started getting a little nervous.”

It didn’t end there. While shagging fly balls during batting practice, he noticed manager Dusty Baker looking his way.

“Hey big guy, you’re the man today,” Baker said to him.

So count at least three people -- and 42,958 fans screaming with euphoria under a closed roof at Minute Maid Park -- as very unsurprised at what transpired in the sixth inning.

At the time, the Astros were down 1-0, but had slowly started creating their first traffic of any real significance on the basepaths off Phillies starter Zack Wheeler.

Martín Maldonado, standing slightly closer to the plate than usual, may or may not have leaned into a pitch -- depending on your perspective -- that plunked him on the left arm.

Altuve beat out a ground ball to avoid a double play and advanced to third on a sneaky single up the middle by eventual World Series MVP Jeremy Peña.

At that moment, Alvarez said, he felt a calm wash over him.

“I knew that was my moment,” Alvarez said. “I had this peace of mind that I knew that was my moment. And it happened.”

“It” was one of the longest home runs ever hit in a World Series. It wasn’t just that it traveled 450 feet to straightaway center -- it was the way it left the yard, landing above a batter’s eye that stands more than 40 feet tall.

“I was hoping he didn’t kill anybody,” closer Ryan Pressly said.

“I would need to hit it twice to hit it that far,” Bregman said.

Up until that moment, the Astros had no counterpunch for Wheeler. They managed four baserunners in five innings. Only one made it as far as second base.

When the Astros finally produced a couple of baserunners in the sixth, Alvarez knew Phillies manager Rob Thomson was going to call on lefty José Alvarado to face him.

Alvarez was ready.

“It’s about faith for me,” he said. “The first two at-bats, I had a plan, and things weren’t really working out for me. When I saw Peña get that hit and Altuve got to third, I got some sort of peace out of that. I knew Alvarado was going to come into that game. I knew he was ready for me. I didn’t look for anything. I didn’t look at the iPad. I waited for my at-bat. I didn’t go looking at anything.”

What did he see? A 98.9 mph fastball, which, in turn, is now on record as the fastest pitch he’s ever homered off of in his career. And it's the second-longest World Series homer, per Statcast, which started tracking in 2015. Only Freddie Freeman’s 460-footer in 2021 was longer.

“It was a tough decision,” Thomson said. “But I went with Alvarado. He beat 'em, he got behind Alvarez and, 99 mph fastball, he just beat him to the spot. That's what good hitters do sometimes.”

The Astros' dugout went nuts. Players spilled out over the railing in celebration.

Well, eventually.

“I was watching the video [later], and I was actually joking around with them,” Alvarez said of his teammates. “They knew that I had hit the ball real hard, but not all of them thought the ball was gone. So they waited it out.

“I saw that some of them were waiting, that they didn’t know the ball was gone. And then I said, ‘What, you guys didn’t trust that I had enough power to get that out?’”

The homer elevated the rest of Alvarez’s somewhat underwhelming postseason. In between his go-ahead homer that won Game 2 of the AL Division Series against the Mariners and this Game 6 homer that won the championship, Alvarez was 5-for-42 with four RBIs.

Few will remember all of those misses. What will follow Alvarez? The simple fact that he’s the most terrifying hitter in a lineup filled with All-Stars. His reputation was further cemented with a towering home run, arriving just when the team needed it the most.

“It was about the moment,” Alvarez said. “It was the right moment for that to happen, and that’s what I did.”