HOUSTON -- Perhaps we’ve buried the lead. Maybe the scariest thing about the Astros isn’t their dominating pitching staff, which is led by the two-headed Cy Young Award-favorite monster of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. There’s another reason to really fear the Astros heading into the playoffs.
Not that anyone has sold Houston’s potent offense short, but the kind of numbers it’s posted in consecutive games in blowouts over the Mariners and A’s would make video games jealous. And opponents really nervous.
Coming off a game in which they erupted for 21 runs on Sunday against the Mariners, the Astros picked up right where they left off Monday at Minute Maid Park and tied a franchise record by blasting seven home runs to beat the A’s, 15-0, for their fifth win in a row.
“It’s really special,” said catcher Robinson Chirinos, who went 3-for-4 with two homers. “When you see a team putting up that many runs in back-to-back games, it says a lot about the approach, about the talent we have here on this team. It takes the whole team to score that many runs. We did it yesterday and we did it again today.”
Six of those homers came in the first two innings -- a feat never before achieved in Major League history -- including two by rookie Yordan Alvarez, who broke the franchise single-season rookie record in the first with his 23rd homer and then added the 24th an inning later. Carlos Correa had the previous mark of 22 in 2015, when he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
“I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, but I went back to the dugout and someone told me,” Alvarez said. “I went to look for Correa, and he congratulated me and we hugged it out. It was a great moment.”
Alvarez has 72 RBIs in his first 71 games in the Major Leagues, which is tied for the second-most in history with Ted Williams, who had 72 in 1939, and Rudy York, who had 72 in 1937. Only Walt Dropo (80 in 1949-50) had more RBIs through his first 71 games.
“This is beyond belief for anything people could have expected,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “He’s doing historic things in the middle of the lineup.”
The Astros (95-50) set a club record for most runs scored in a two-game span (36) as they reduced their number to clinch the American League West to eight games over the second-place A’s, who are 10 1/2 games back of Houston.
“I think we believe every night that we have a chance to put together a great offensive performance like we have been, and I think guys are just really preparing well and working their tails off,” said Alex Bregman, whose 35th homer is the most by an Astros player since Chris Carter had 37 in 2014.
The second blast Alvarez hit, which Statcast estimated at 416 feet, landed in the upper deck in right field and had the ballpark buzzing. Alvarez is the first Astros player and second player ever to hit a fair ball into the upper deck. Jeromy Burnitz did it on Sept. 29, 2000, in the first year Minute Maid Park opened as Enron Field in 2000.
“There were some fans sitting up there that weren’t expecting to get a souvenir who [went] home with something pretty special,” Hinch said.
Bregman and Alvarez homered on consecutive pitches in the first inning off Mike Fiers, and Chirinos hit the first of his two homers later in that inning. Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley went back to back off Fiers in the second before Alvarez’s upper-deck blast. The last time the Astros hit seven homers? Sept. 9, 2000 vs. the Cubs -- exactly 19 years ago.
“We were just incredibly explosive tonight in a game that had a really good feeling at the beginning,” Hinch said. “We ambushed Mike. I don’t know how to describe it. We came out locked in and did a ton of damage. He made some mistakes, and we didn’t really let him get away with any of them.”
Here’s a look at some of the other incredible numbers from Monday:
• The Astros became the fourth team in the Modern Era (since 1900) to outscore their opponents by 35 runs or more in a two-game span and the first since the Red Sox (36) from June 17-18, 1953, according to Elias.
• With seven home runs on Monday, the Astros are one home run shy of tying their single-season franchise record of 249 set in 2000.
• The Astros set a club record with their 56th home win of the season, surpassing the previous record of 55 set in 1980 and matched in 1989. Half of their wins are against the American League West; Houston is a staggering 28-2 against AL West foes at Minute Maid Park this year.
• The Astros hit back-to-back homers twice, which ties the club record for most back-to-back homers in a season (12, set in 2000).