HOUSTON — The fireworks were lacking early, but Yordan Alvarez made sure there were some late.
Jeremy Peña and Alvarez had a nasty collision on Wednesday in New York, with the outfielder leaving the game on a cart. Both avoided serious injuries, but Alvarez was sidelined for two games to be evaluated under concussion protocols.
Fast forward to Monday afternoon, when Alvarez launched a Statcast-projected 444-foot walk-off homer to complete the comeback from an early five-run deficit and give the Astros the 7-6 win over the Royals at Minute Maid Park. It was the largest come-from-behind win of the season for Houston, with the previous high being a three-run deficit against Texas on June 14.
“Yordan did his thing,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.
Alvarez is coming off a special June, in which he won the American League Player of the Month Award after leading the AL in batting average (.418), on-base percentage (.510), slugging percentage (.835) and OPS ( 1.345).
This is only a continuation of what has been a special year for Alvarez, as he leads the Majors in OPS (1.063) and slugging percentage (.653). He also ranks second in homers (24) behind Aaron Judge (29) and third in on-base percentage (.410). Alvarez has continued to add to his accolades, becoming the fifth player in AL/NL history to hit 84 homers in his first 299 career games. The only thing that was missing was his first career walk-off homer.
“It was definitely special,” Alvarez said. “My first walk-off in the Major Leagues, and obviously, being able to pull this one out is very special.”
Houston was in trouble early in the game, trailing, 5-0, without recording a hit through the first 3 1/2 innings. It did not help that starter Jake Odorizzi, who was making his first start since May 16, gave up five runs on nine hits in four innings. It seemed like the Astros’ six-game win streak was bound to come to an end, but they have trust in their abilities to bounce right back.
“We know that we are a really good team and that the game is not over until that last out is recorded,” Alvarez said. “Nobody in that dugout gives up throughout the game.”
And just like that, the Astros clawed their way back into the game, scoring one run in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings. They punctuated their effort with a three-run eighth inning. After the Royals issued three straight walks, Kyle Tucker came through with a two-run single. Yuli Gurriel tied the game in the next at-bat with an RBI single.
After Ryne Stanek posted a zero in the top half of the ninth, the stage was set for Alvarez with two outs in the bottom half of the frame. Not fazed by the moment, Alvarez was waiting for the right pitch and knew what to do with it. He crushed an 84.4 mph slider to right-center field at an exit velocity of 112.6 mph.
“I knew when [Royals reliever Scott Barlow] fell behind in the count, I knew he was going to throw me a comfortable pitch there,” Alvarez said. “I just tried to focus and see a pitch up in the zone, but the ball came back into the middle of the plate, and I was able to hit it.”
The message for Alvarez moving forward is simple: “Just keep it coming,” Baker said. “There is more in him, and that was clutch from him.”