HOUSTON – Perhaps there is no greater sign of respect than being a hitter compared to Angels superstar Mike Trout. That was the level of appreciation Mark Kotsay gave Astros manager Yordan Alvarez shortly after Alvarez fired an eighth-inning tie-breaker Saturday to defeat his team.
Alvarez smashed a 3-1 slider off left reliever Richard Lovelady and sent him 392 feet into the upper deck in right field at Minute Maid Park to hit a home run—his team-high in the 10th of the season—to send the Astros streaking. to their sixth straight win, 3-2.
“He’s one guy in the lineup that you can’t let hit you,” Kotsay said. “It’s a 3-1 passer that wasn’t actually a bad pitch. From my angle, Yordan came out, it looked like he might have been sitting on the slider and hooked it up to right field. He’s an outstanding player. I put him in the trout category for sure.”
Alvarez also drove in runs with his first sacrifice fly and had 41 RBIs in 39 games played this season. Astros manager Dusty Baker said he expects Alvarez to come in the clutch again and again.
The stats back that prediction, as Saturday Alvarez’s blowout tied the Mets’ Pete Alonso with six big hits this season.
“The fans expect it, and when you get it, it’s like when you expect the stars in the NBA to take the last shot and everyone knows it and sink it,” Baker said. “Boy, that was a big win for us. Hunter Brown was really good, our office was good. We scored just enough to win.”
Brown, the Astros’ rookie, struck out a career-high nine strikeouts in six innings pitched, allowing two runs and five hits with no walks. He hit 99 mph in the first inning with his fastball, which he threw 51 percent of his 97-pitch effort. He struck out four of the first five batters he faced and tied his previous career-high eight hits in the fourth inning.
“I just go out there and compete,” Brown said. “You can’t really control results like that. If you just run your bidding, and that’s all I think when I do, I’m going to get consistently good results.”
In winning nine of their last 10 games, the Astros hit a season-high seven . 500 hits (26-19) and stay on the heels of first-place Rangers (28-17) in the AL West. Houston has an 18-plus run differential over those ten games, led by a bullpen that posted a 1.64 ERA in that span with five saves in five opportunities.
“Early on, our office was giving up some of it because I think our guys just weren’t up for it, especially because half of our work went into [World Baseball Classic]Becker said. “Those guys just weren’t ready to be themselves. Now these guys are in shape, their arms are getting used to their workload. The key is getting started, because that reduces the workload of your already privileged office.”
On Saturday, Ryan Stanek, Hector Neres, and Ryan Pressley were throwing three scoreless innings in relief of the Browns. The Astros have been keen to hold their ground after a stellar 2022 season last year, and the only aspect of their game has been the most reliable. Both the offense and the starting thrower are injured, but the elite target remains.
“I think a lot of players have had a little bit of bad luck in the beginning and even when the season starts,” Pressley said. “We’re starting to throw the ball really well, and as long as we keep doing that and give our offense a chance, we’ll put in some good games.”
Houston’s rotation, without hit starters Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Urquidi and Luis Garcia, was the beneficiary of the bowling action. Just ask Brown, who didn’t get a win but lowered his season’s ERA to 3.38 through nine games. Stars 6-3 in its prime.
“We’ve got guys in there again,” he said of bowling. “You have no reservations about handing the ball over. You have a whole bunch of guys who can come in and get the job done and that’s what they’ve been doing. It was really good.”
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