Houston — No beginning pitcher of baseball can throw a sinker as fast as Luis Castillo’s. The ball is launched from an end of the plate, and comes back to the other, bouncing around an inch and half horizontally it’s an optical illusion of the pitch when executed correctly and the 73rd pitch in the American League Division Series start Thursday, without doubt, was. The only issue was that Yordan Alvarez who is a dazzling Houston Astros slugger, stood at the plate waiting to demonstrate the pitch’s inability.
The ball left the hand of Castillo at 98 mph, swung up four inches off the outside of the corner, and hit 371 feet from the ground -yet another day playing in a playoff, another go-ahead, deficit-erasing home run by Alvarez and another win for the Astros and this time 4-2 against Seattle’s Seattle Mariners to give Houston an 2-0 lead in the top-of-five ALDS.
In the past Alvarez’s credentials need no re-sharpening: at 25 He is one of the best, if not the best left-handed hitters around the globe. The way he’s played in the first two games in the series is a first in the annals in the history of baseball postseason. In Game 1 Alvarez scored a walk-off three-run homer at the bottom of the ninth in order to make the Astros back from the brink. In Game 2 they were trailing at 2-1 but Alvarez drove a sinker from Castillo’s bat onto the Minute Maid Park’s small right field porch. It. It sent the 41,774 fans to a frenzy which led to a victory which puts them one win away from winning their sixth consecutive AL Championship Series.
Never before has any player who hit more than one home run in the sixth inning later in a postseason game when playing in the lead. Alvarez did it twice in two games.
“I just try to disconnect from everything when I go up there to the plate,” Alvarez stated. “I just kind of try to go in there with a plan of attack and just go out there, try to visualize everything that might happen there and … yeah.”
Yes, it’s right. The Mariners were, for the second time in succession they were happy with their position as Castillo defeating Astros pitcher Framber Valdez who gave up two runs in the fourth due to the back of a Valdez fielding error as well as a Dylan Moore RBI single. Seattle is playing in the postseason at first in nearly two decades, was hoping to go back at the T-Mobile Park in time for game 3 on Saturday. The game will be the series split.
The inevitability that is Alvarez came with the sixth. The rookie Jeremy Pena, batting in the no. 2 hole, hit his second hit of the day at two outs. Castillo was the first to start Alvarez by putting a turbo-sinker into his club. The ball was threw away. He came back with another. Alvarez was not averse to this one.
“If you’re good, I’m good, too,” Castillo said. “I came with the same plan of just getting him out and he was able to make contact with that ball. … I’m not intimidated by any lineup. When I go up on the mound, I go up there to compete.”
Houston’s bullpen shut down the Mariners lineup. The bases were loaded at the sixth inning’s top and the game poised to break open, Astros manager Dusty Baker took out Valdez who is the king of quality starts and with the bases full. The reliever Hector Neris induced a groundout from Cal Raleigh, setting up Alvarez’s heroics.
The game didn’t end there, neither did he stop there. In the seventh inning, with two runners in the game the field, he scored the line drive in left field by Eugenio Suarez, which might be out of his reach during previous seasons, as Alvarez was more of an designated hitter. When Alvarez moved towards the plate in the eighth Mariners Manager Scott Servais had seemingly learned the lesson. He raised his hands four fingers in order to signal an intentional walk — his 10th of the season, despite the fact that the reliever Andres Munoz already had walked Pena. The next pitch was when the cleanup batter Alex Bregman laced a single into the right side to make it a score for Pena.
“Obviously, [Alvarez] has done some damage against us in this series,” Servais stated. “He’s hot right now. You’ve got to recognize that. I think you kind of game plan in how you want to go through their lineup and the guys you want to be careful with. When you’re throwing balls 3, 4 inches off the plate and he hits ’em like that, he’s in the zone, and he’s a super-talented player and he’s made us pay here the last couple days.”
The acclaim for Alvarez continued after that. He also had a similar success in division series as well as the ALCS in the last season prior to disappearing from the World Series, going a two-for-20 without hitting a homer. The first success is back. It’s a good thing. Baker just is hoping that Astros are able to give Alvarez the kind of stage that is worthy of the nickname he has earned.
“I call him Grande,” Baker declared. “He comes up big.”