Astros ride two Ruthian blasts to much-needed win in Bronx

Alvarez (116.8 mph), Singleton (115.4) crush HRs in 1st inning; Blanco, Hader hold off Yankees

May 10th, 2024

NEW YORK -- Nobody could accuse the Astros of getting behind the eight-ball early against the Yankees. For the third consecutive game, Houston homered in the top of the first inning against New York, this time with a pair of Statcast-shattering and awe-inspiring blasts. But unlike the previous two evenings, Thursday’s first-inning barrage was enough to get the Astros over the hump.

crushed a solo shot into the second deck in right field off Marcus Stroman, registering a 116.8 mph exit velocity on his eighth home run of the year. It was the left-handed slugger’s hardest-hit home run of the season, and the second hardest of his career. And he topped it off with a cheeky bat flip back to his dugout. Not to be outdone, followed the feat with his own Ruthian blast. After walked, Singleton smoked a ball off the facade of the third deck in right field, crushing a two-run blast with an exit velocity of 115.4 mph.

The two towering home runs, with support from a gritty start from the revelatory and the red-hot Peña, powered Houston to a much-needed 4-3 victory over the Yankees, snapping a four-game losing streak and exorcising some early-season demons in the Bronx.

“We fight until the end, and we have to,” manager Joe Espada said. “We have to. We have to be resilient and fight our way through this, it’s the only way you get out of it. You can’t quit, you gotta compete.”

Singleton’s homer, which produced a shocked silence around Yankee Stadium, was also the hardest-hit ball of his career. And he knew it was gone as soon as it left his bat, ejecting the bat in an almost offended manner. Look no further than Alvarez’s reaction to get a sense of how Singleton’s homer reverberated through the Bronx. And if you ask members of the Astros, Alvarez’s shock and awe was a perfect encapsulation of how impressive that Singleton blast was.

“It was loud. It was far. I haven’t seen that many balls hit like that in this ballpark,” said Espada, a former Yankees coach.

Said Peña, who was on first base when Singleton made contact: “I didn’t see it. … I saw him pimping it. You know once he pimps it, you know it’s far. I’m going to say it for life, Singleton’s got the best pimp jobs ever.”

Alvarez (who also doubled later on) and Singleton became the only teammates to hit 115+ mph home runs in the same inning since Statcast began tracking in 2015. Before this, the Yankees were the only team to hit multiple 115+ mph homers in the same game (doing it four times, most recently on June 6, 2022, thanks to Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton).

Not a bad start for a team scratching and clawing to right the ship against the Yankees.

But the early advantage could have gone by the wayside -- as it had the past two games -- if it wasn’t for Blanco. After allowing the first two Yankees to reach base, the 30-year-old right-hander struck out Judge, then forced Alex Verdugo to roll over into an inning-ending double play.

Over his 5 2/3 innings, Blanco represented the beacon of stability that he’s been for the Astros’ rotation this season. He ran into only a semblance of trouble in the third frame, giving up a two-run blast to Anthony Volpe down the right-field line. Otherwise, Blanco navigated a Yankees lineup that had given Houston fits with relative expertise, allowing just two runs on four hits while striking out five and issuing four walks.

No at-bat was more representative of the spirit Blanco symbolizes than his battle against Anthony Rizzo in the fourth inning -- a 14-pitch marathon that featured 10 consecutive foul balls, before Blanco finally vanquished the lefty with a devastating changeup.

“My goal there was for [Rizzo] to not get on with a free pass: He had to earn it,” Blanco said via interpreter Jenloy Herrera. “He was going to have to get a hit off me there.”

It wasn’t a flawless game by any means. Houston went 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base, there was the odd baserunning miscue and the club saw their lead dwindle to one after a mammoth homer by Judge in the eighth inning. In fact, New York had the game-tying run on second in the ninth, before Josh Hader shut the door with a punchout against Volpe, earning his fourth save of the year.

Some nerves were likely fried by the end, but with the sounds of Future and Metro Boomin’s “Like That” and celebratory shouts emanating from the clubhouse doors, the victory had to feel just as sweet -- no matter how it arrived.

“That’s how you win the majority of ballgames anyway,” Singleton said. “As long as you can go out and fight every inning.”