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Alvarez passes Pujols with rookie RBI milestone

Phenom drives in 35th run in 30th game as Astros win sixth straight
@brianmctaggart
July 23, 2019

HOUSTON -- Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez got some advice from Albert Pujols of the Angels when he reached first base last week. The future Hall of Famer had clearly been paying attention to what Alvarez had been doing early in his career and told the rookie to keep working

HOUSTON -- Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez got some advice from Albert Pujols of the Angels when he reached first base last week. The future Hall of Famer had clearly been paying attention to what Alvarez had been doing early in his career and told the rookie to keep working hard and stay focused.

The red-hot Alvarez now finds himself knocking Pujols from the record books, setting a Major League record previously held by the veteran slugger when he drove in his 35th run in his 30th Major League game in Monday’s 11-1 win over the A’s at Minute Maid Park.

Box score

“I’m very happy and very grateful,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “It’s something I just found out when I got here to the clubhouse, and just hearing that news is something that’s really great for the start of my career.”

Alvarez was one of three Cuban-born players to homer on Monday for the Astros, joining Yuli Gurriel and Aledmys Díaz. The Astros won their sixth game in a row to extend their lead in the American League West by 7 1/2 games over the A’s while becoming the first team in the AL to reach 65 wins.

Alvarez led off the second inning with a solo homer off Homer Bailey, which tied him with Pujols for most RBIs (34) through the first 30 games of a career. Alvarez added the record-breaking 35th RBI with a double in a seven-run third inning that put the Astros ahead, 11-0.

“We never really let [Bailey] breathe,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “We have a really long lineup when we get everybody back together. Carlos [Correa] is coming back pretty soon, too. When we put that kind of lineup together and that kind of approach, we can make it difficult on the pitcher. And he had nowhere to go when we were putting quality at-bat after quality at-bat. It was a good sight to see.”

Alvarez, 22, is the reigning AL Rookie of the Month. He has 11 homers in 30 games, which is tied for the third most in MLB history. He trails only Rhys Hoskins (14 in 2017) and Kevin Maas (12 in 1990).

“Just really special approach,” Astros starting pitcher Gerrit Cole said. “I haven’t really seen anything like it. The discipline, the advancement of his pitch selection, just never seems to get too big. He got tested a little bit with some breaking balls the last few days and seems to have responded well to that.”

Diaz homered in his first at-bat since coming off the injured list in the third, and Gurriel went 3-for-3 with a homer in the third. Gurriel has 14 home runs and 31 RBIs in his last 23 games and set a career high with 19 long balls.

“To contribute to the team is amazing,” said Diaz, who missed 47 games. “To have the chance to have three RBIs today is great.”

The only other time in which three Cuban-born players went deep in the same game came on June 27, 2014, when Jose Abreu, Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox did it.

“Everybody was kind of jumping on board with being Cuban tonight,” Hinch said. “It was a good night for the boys, and we celebrated it in the dugout. We love our guys, and our guys have a great culture among them.”

Cole (11-5) was the beneficiary of the offensive outburst and improved to 7-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his past 11 starts by allowing two hits and one run in seven innings. He fanned 11 batters, becoming the second-fastest pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts in a season in terms of innings. He has 12 double-digit strikeout games this year.

“It’s intimidating to watch the way they collectively take at-bats and don’t get off the gas pedal, and that makes them elite and unique,” Cole said. “It’s really fun to watch.”

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