Air Yordan: Álvarez hits 2-run homer in Astros’ Game 5 win
After spending the previous two nights on the bench limited to two pinch-hit appearances, Álvarez got a full-time job back for Game 5 of the World Series and had a blast. Álvarez went 3 for 3 and hit a huge two-run home run off Washington Nationals emergency starter Joe Ross to help Houston take a 3-2 series lead and move one victory away from a second championship in three years.
When they got back into the clubhouse after a 7-1 win Sunday night, Correa reminded the rookie of his pregame prediction.
“See, I told you,” Correa told Álvarez. “This is the day.”
The homer was Álvarez’s first of the playoffs, and he became the youngest AL player with three hits in a World Series game since Tony Kubek did it for the Yankees in 1957.
“I never thought that I’d be here in the big leagues at the biggest stage and performing at the biggest stage,” Álvarez said through a translator.
Despite hitting .500 in the first two games of the World Series, Álvarez didn’t see the field for Games 3 and 4 at an NL park with no designated hitter because of concerns about his defense. Álvarez took three swings in two pinch-hit appearances, popping out in one and flying out in the other.
The Astros won each of those anyway with no help from Álvarez, but manager AJ Hinch had a plan.
Hinch didn’t want Álvarez sitting too long and saw an opportunity with his ace, Gerrit Cole, on the mound. He figured Cole usually gets “so many strikeouts” — he threw nine — that there’d be fewer balls in play. Álvarez had no trouble with the one ball lined his way in left field.
“The dugout actually exploded more when he caught the line drive in left field,” Hinch said. “Everybody was having a good time with him.”
Álvarez, of course, was sixth in the lineup for his bat, which heated up during the first two games in Houston after he went 1 for 22 in the AL Championship Series. The 22-year-old was starting to look more like the phenom who hit .313 with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs in just 87 games in his first major league season.
That power was on display in the second inning when he crushed a low-and-away sinker from Ross into the seats in left center. Álvarez passed Jose Canseco as the youngest Cuban-born player to homer in the World Series.
“Not really thinking about home run,” Álvarez said. “Just looking to hit the ball through the middle, and it went out.”
He followed that up in the fourth by singling to right — through the defensive shift — on an up-and-in slider and scored on Correa’s two-run home run.
“He’s been having great at-bats, honestly, the last five, six games,” outfielder George Springer said.
Hinch’s hope was Álvarez would help get the Astros the lead and he could put in a defensive replacement. After another single to right in the seventh, Hinch lifted Álvarez for a pinch-runner because his job was done.
“He’s done this the whole year, but this postseason as he’s tried to find his way, and it was nice to see him stay within himself,” Hinch said. “He contributed great. Got to the seventh inning, three hits, put our defense in. But he was a big catalyst tonight.”
Before getting positive pregame vibes from Correa and Aledmys Díaz, Álvarez spoke to his father on the travel day Thursday about what he was doing well and what adjustments he needed to make. He took those things to heart and earned praise from his teammates for working at his game.
“I just told him that what great players do when they struggle is try to figure out a way to contribute to the game,” Correa said. “He went to the cage. He spent time in the cage. He put in his work. And he told me that he was feeling great. I said, ‘It’s your night, brother, let’s go.’ And he was able to contribute in a big way to the team.”
Álvarez should be back at his usual DH spot against Stephen Strasburg in Houston in Game 6 Tuesday with a chance to win the World Series.
“Obviously we did the job here, which was to win three games,” he said. “Very happy to go back to Houston and to do my job to hit as a DH.”