Yordan Alvarez is using the 2021 postseason to prove what the Houston Astros have known all along: The 24-year-old slugger from Las Tunas, Cuba, is one of the best young hitters in the game despite a rocky start to his career.
A year after missing all but two games of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season due to surgery on both knees, Alvarez — the 2019 AL Rookie of the Year — is putting a bright, beautiful bow on his comeback campaign with a torrid postseason.
He was named the AL Championship Series MVP on Friday after the Astros beat the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park , a 5-0 victory highlighted by the hulking DH going 4-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and two runs scored.
It followed a stellar Game 5, in which Alvarez lit up Boston ace Chris Sale for three hits including a homer and two-run double, the first time in six years a left-handed hitter got three knocks against the nasty southpaw.
Overall, Alvarez had 12 hits in 23 at-bats, with one homer, 6 RBI, five extra-base hits, seven runs scored and an unheard-of 1.408 OPS. His .522 average was the highest in ALCS history.
“It means everything,” Alvarez said through an interpreter after Game 6. “I didn’t really imagine myself being able to come out of that surgery on both knees and be able to do this as quickly as I did. So it was really unbelievable for me to be able to come back and do what I did, but just super happy to be here and be able to contribute like that.
“I was just focused on doing the job,” added Alvarez, who had a hit in every ALCS game.
The series win gave the Astros their first World Series appearance since 2019, when they lost to the Washington Nationals in seven games, and they’re now headed to their third World Series in five years.
Houston won its only championship in 2017, when they beat the Los Angeles Dodgers — a victory later tainted by the revelation the team was relaying signs to batters using an elaborate cheating system.
Alvarez is the fourth Cuban-born player to be named a League Championship Series MVP, following Tampa Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena last season, Yankees pitcher Orlando Hernandez in 1999 and the Marlins hurler Livan Hernandez in 1997.
But Alvarez’s 2021 season — 33 HR, 104 RBI and .277 average — also puts the budding young superstar in the conversation for American League MVP.
— Robert Dominguez
Robert Dominguez is co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls” and writer of the upcoming “El Salón: The Trials and Triumphs of Baseball’s Latino Hall of Famers.”
Photo: Ken Lund — Under Creative Commons License