At a time when his team needed him most, Houston’s designated hitter broke out big on his way to winning ALCS MVP, almost single-handedly leading the Astros to the American League pennant. In the final three games of the American League Championship Series — a run that started with the Astros facing a 2-1 series deficit to the Red Sox — Alvarez went 9-for-13. In Games 5 and 6, he outhit the entire Red Sox roster on his own, 7-5. His ALCS performance peaked at Minute Maid Park in Game 6: 4-for-4 with a single, a double, a triple, a run and an RBI, as Houston finished off the series with a 5-0 victory over Boston.
“It was all about focus,” Alvarez told ESPN’s Marly Rivera after the game. “That’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to do damage and that’s what happened.”
Alvarez’s showing in the ALCS surprised even himself, especially coming off a 2020 season when he only played two games and underwent surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his right knee, along with arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
“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,” Alvarez said. “So it was really unbelievable for me to be able to come back and do what I did. Just super happy to be here and be able to contribute like that.”
Throughout the series, Astros manager Dusty Baker noted the exceptional impact Alvarez made in the middle of Houston’s lineup — and how his power bat changed the trajectory of the team’s season.
“He is a big boy in the middle,” Baker said.
Alvarez is the second Astros player with 11 hits in a playoff series, behind only Jose Altuve‘s 12 in the 2020 ALCS. He became the fifth player in MLB history with 11 or more hits in a single series against the Red Sox, joining a club with Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams (2004), Lou Brock (1967) and Buck Herzog (1912).
Baker noted Alvarez’s all-fields approach, which has drawn comparisons to the way David Ortiz consistently drove pitches on the outer half of the plate the other way. During the 2021 season, Alvarez pulled baseballs 36.4%, and hit them up the middle and to the opposite field 36.3% and 27.3% of the time, respectively. His average exit velocity of 93.2 mph ranked ninth in MLB, ahead of Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Bryce Harper, according to Baseball Savant.
“He hits the ball in the opposite field and it stays straight,” Baker said. “It doesn’t have a slice on it, and everybody knows he can pull the ball, but he also has power the other way. He is only going to get better. Like last year at this time, we didn’t have Alvarez, and we came close to going to the series last year without Alvarez. And now we have Alvarez, and we’re very, very grateful and thankful that we have him.”
After the game, Alvarez gave credit to Baker for his support throughout the season.
“He understands how it is to be a ballplayer,” Alvarez said. “He understands what guys go through every day. I got a chance to spend time with him in spring training as well. He has been really helpful to me, and I’m thankful for everything that he has given to me in this time together.”
Alvarez’s three extra-base hits in a potential series-clinching game tie Carlos Correa for the most in Astros history, and he joins Yuli Gurriel and Craig Biggio as the only Astros with consecutive three-hit games in the postseason.
That historic performance did not go unnoticed by his teammates.
“Yordan was, like, something else,” said Astros pitcher Luis Garcia. “He was really clutch, everything.”
Alvarez’s successful 2019 campaign for Rookie of the Year — where he hit .313/.412/.655 with 27 homers, 26 doubles and 78 RBIs with 3.7 bWAR in 87 games — served as his introduction to the national stage, but he cemented his place among the best designated hitters with his 2021 season, hitting .277/.346/.531 with 33 homers, 104 RBIs, 35 doubles and a triple with 3.2 bWAR this year.
But none of them meant as much as winning the ALCS MVP trophy.
“It means everything,” Alvarez said. “It means everything. I think there’s a lot of things that I could say that’s behind that trophy, but all I can say is it just means everything.”
As the spotlight got brighter, so did Alvarez’s performance at the plate. The ALCS MVP trophy served as a cherry on top.