HOUSTON — Yordan Alvarez and his powerful slugger have done it again, starting a two-run go-ahead homer in the sixth inning ahead of Seattle ace Luis Castillo that put the Houston Astros 4-2 over the Mariners on Thursday for one 2- 0 leads in AL Division Series.
Alvarez was the hero of Game 1 with his 3-run shot against reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray with two outs in the ninth inning that gave the Astros an 8-7 win in a game they were four at left behind.
With Thursday’s home run, Alvarez became the first player in major league postseason history to hit multiple career go-ahead homers in the sixth inning or later when his team was behind, and both came in his, according to ESPN last two games statistics & information research.
Castillo, who was acquired by the Reds just before the close of trading and had 7⅓ innings of shutout ball against Toronto in the wildcard round, gave up an early home run on Kyle Tucker but little else as he went 2-1 in the sixth round went .
But with two outs, Jeremy Peña met a blooper that fell between second baseman Adam Frazier and midfielder Julio Rodríguez. Castillo bent down and slapped his legs in disappointment as he saw the ball go flat in the middle.
That put Alvarez, who hit a 98-mile pitch that drove away to opposite field, into the short porch on the left to put the Astros 3-2 ahead.
Alvarez, who hit 37 homers in the regular season, trotted around bases as cameras panned to his Cuban parents watching their first postseason series after arriving in Houston in August. The left-hander pointed them as he reached the plate before recreating the powerful swing that removed the Astros a win from their sixth straight AL Championship Series.
There were two outs and a first-place runner in the eighth when Seattle certainly had seen enough of Alvarez leaving the yard. The Mariners went with him on purpose and Alex Bregman made them pay and added some insurance when he scored to make it 4-2.
Houston starter Framber Valdez got off to a solid start, allowing four hits and two carries in 5⅔ innings. He looked different from his last postseason appearance after he and fellow pitcher Luis Garcia both got hair extensions this season.
Hector Neris won after getting the last one out in the sixth inning to escape a base-filled jam. Bryan Abreu grabbed the first two outs of the seventh before Rafael Montero came in and threw 1⅓ innings scoreless.
Ryan Pressly went the leadoff batter in the ninth before JP put Crawford in a double play. Rodríguez then doubled, but Pressly beat Ty France to the save. The Astros won despite spending a total of seven walks.
The Mariners will return to Seattle for Game 3 on Saturday in a huge hole in the best-of-five series as they host their first playoff game in 21 years.
Alvarez carried the Astros early in this divisional series and carried such a load that Houston catcher Martín Maldonado asked him after Game 1 if his back was sore because “you carry us as a team.” The 25-year-old bounced back this postseason after a tough period in last year’s World Series when he hit just .100 with no homers and six strikeouts.
Criticized in the past for poor defense, the racquet also played big in left field.
Alvarez grabbed a sharp liner hit by Eugenio Suarez to end the seventh. In Game 1, he set up a single from Suarez in the fourth and threw a perfect shot to Maldonado that marked France at the plate.
Castillo had five hits and three carries with seven strikeouts in seven innings.
There was an out in the second inning when Tucker slammed a slider from Castillo into the right field seats to give Houston a 1-0 lead.
Crawford doubled with two outs in the third. But second baseman Jose Altuve made a jump shot after hitting a sharp grounder from Rodríguez, who knocked him straight to first base to end the inning.
Suarez went with an out in the fourth and Mitch Haniger dubbed. Carlos Santana then hit a one-hopper that Valdez set up cleanly towards the third base side, but his home throw was offline due to a mistake that allowed Suarez to tie it at 1-all.
Santana was out after going into a rundown. Haniger scored as Dylan Moore gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead.
Valdez passed Haniger with two outs in the sixth for a full count, Santana doubled and Moore drew a walk to load bases and chase Valdez. Neris took over and pulled Cal Raleigh back on a groundout to escape the jam.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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