José Abreu Agrees to Three-Year Contract with Houston Astros

José Abreu is celebrating an Astros-nominical deal…

The 35-year-old Cuban professional baseball player, who plays first base, and the Houston Astros have agreed to a three-year contract, according to ESPN.

José AbreuAbreu will add another run-producing bat to the World Series champions’ lineup that’s already filled with them.

Abreu, who turns 36 in January, won the American League MVP award in 2020 and is second in baseball with 863 RBIs since his first season in the major leagues, 2014. He hit .304/.378/.446 this year with the Chicago White Sox, for whom he had played all nine of his big league seasons after defecting from Cuba.

Following a dreadful first five weeks, Abreu was one of the best hitters in baseball over the final three-quarters of the season, batting .335/.405/.479, though his 15 home runs over the entire year were a career low.

He joins an Astros lineup with fellow Cuban Yordan ÁlvarezJose AltuveKyle TuckerAlex Bregman and World Series MVP Jeremy Peña.

Abreu will replace Yuli Gurriel, a longtime rival in the Cuban National Series.

Abreu and Gurriel, along with Yoenis Cespedes, were widely regarded as the best players of their generation from Cuba, both high-contact hitters — though Abreu’s power was the separator.

The White Sox extended him for three years and $50 million after 2019, when he led the AL with 123 RBIs. Over his nine seasons, Abreu hit .292/.354/.506 with 243 home runs and an adjusted OPS 34% better than league average.

He’s the second signing for this winter for the Astros, who reupped reliever Rafael Montero on a three-year, $34.5 million contract. The Astros’ projected payroll is currently in the $175 million range — they’ve exceeded $187 million each of the previous five seasons — and they still hope to sign ace Justin Verlander, who could command upward of $40 million a year.

Julio Rodriguez Named American League Rookie of the Year

Julio Rodriguez’s banner year is ending with an exclamation point…

The 21-year-old Dominican professional baseball player, an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, has been named the American League Rookie of the Year in near-unanimous fashion.

Julio RodriguezIt was a fitting cap to a stirring campaign that saw J-Rod dazzle at the Home Run Derby, perform among the sport’s best players and propel the Mariners to a long-awaited trip to the playoffs.

Rodriguez received 29 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, with Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman receiving the other. Cleveland Guardians left fielder Steven KwanKansas City Royals infielder Bobby Witt Jr. and Houston Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the voting.

Rodriguez electrified the city of Seattle and captivated an entire nation of baseball fans with his youthful exuberance, pronounced swagger and wide-ranging talent. He slashed .284/.345/.509, leading all rookies in homers (28), OPS (.855) and total bases (260) while helping the Mariners clinch their first postseason berth since 2001, snapping the longest active drought among the four major North American professional sports.

Along the way, Rodriguez consistently came through in big spots, dazzling with his defense, power and speed. His 5.3 FanGraphs wins above replacement tied that of Rutschman for the rookie lead and was topped by only 21 position players throughout the sport.

Rodriguez, who added 25 stolen bases and 25 doubles, is now the fifth Mariners player to win rookie of the year, after Alvin Davis (1984), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000), Ichiro Suzuki (2001) and Kyle Lewis (2020).

Only two other players since 1900 have accumulated at least 28 home runs, 25 stolen bases and 25 doubles in their age-21-or-younger seasons — Mike Trout and Andruw Jones.

Rodriguez is the first player ever to combine 25 home runs with 25 stolen bases in his first season in the big leagues and the third to do so while still rookie eligible, along with Trout and Chris Young, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

The Mariners envisioned Rodriguez as a potential star when they signed him out of the Dominican Republic for $1.75 million in the summer of 2017, but he profiled more as a power-hitting corner outfielder. Rodriguez worked to become a five-tool center fielder, zooming through the Mariners’ minor league system — despite losing an entire season to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 — and cracking the team’s Opening Day roster this spring.

Before the end of August, the Mariners rewarded Rodriguez with a long-term extension that will pay him anywhere between $210 million and $470 million over the life of his career, an unprecedented — and highly incentivized — contract for someone with less than a full year of major league service time.

But before all that came struggle. Rodriguez went homerless with a .544 OPS during his first month in the big leagues. But he recovered well enough to become the only rookie to make the MLB All-Star team.

“I feel like that’s when I learned the most — on the down parts,” Rodriguez said during a video conference with the media after winning the award. “That rough start to the beginning, whenever I maybe was not doing so good, all those things that happened that first year that kind of opened my eyes — I’m gonna take all that. And I know it’s gonna serve me well along my career.”

Houston Astros Rookie Sensation Jeremy Peña Named World Series MVP

Jeremy Peña has capped his remarkable rookie season with history-making prize…

The 25-year-old Dominican professional baseball player, a shortstop for the Houston Astros, has become the first rookie position player to win the Willie Mays World Series MVP award after leading his team to the World Series title over the Philadelphia Phillies, four games to two.

Jeremy Peña“It has a lot to do with my family, my upbringing,” Pena said. “Shoutout to my teammates as well. They took me in since day one. They gave me the confidence to just go out and play my game.”

Peña came through in the clutch during all four of the Astros’ wins, and he was the team’s most consistent hitter as well.

In Game 2, Peña hit a first-inning RBI double to give Houston a 1-0 edge en route to a 5-2 win.

In Game 4, he had a single and a run during the Astros’ five-run fifth inning en route to a 5-0 victory.

In Game 5, he had three hits, a run and two RBI in a 3-2 victory. His two biggest hits were a first-inning RBI single and a fourth-inning solo home run.

In Game 6, the shortstop scored the game-winning run after hitting a single and scoring after Yordan Alvarez‘s towering three-run home run en route to the 4-1 clincher.

Peña also won the American League Championship Series MVP after hitting .353 with a pair of home runs in a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees. He is the first-ever player to win the ALCS and World Series MVP awards.

He filled big cleats this season after longtime shortstop Carlos Correa signed with the Minnesota Twins last offseason, but he excelled with 22 home runs, 63 RBI and a .715 OPS. And that was before an exemplary playoff performance that vaulted Houston to its second-ever World Series win.

Pena went 2-for-4 with a run scored Saturday at the plate while continuing to flash the defense that made him the first-ever rookie shortstop to win a Gold Glove.

For the series, Pena hit .400, posted a 1.023 OPS and led all hitters with 10 hits and 15 total bases. Pena also smacked a go-ahead home run off Philadelphia’s Noah Syndergaard during Houston’s crucial 3-2 win in Game 5.

Pena, who was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, carried the flag of his homeland to the podium for his postgame news conference.

“Man, it’s special,” Pena said. “I can’t even put it into words right now, but shoutout to my Dominican people.”

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Pena’s OPS makes him just the fourth rookie to surpass 1.000 over a single World Series, minimum of 20 at-bats. He joins Pepper Martin, 1.330 (Cardinals, 1931); Andruw Jones, 1.250 (Braves, 1996); and Randy Arozarena, 1.234 (Rays, 2020).

During the regular season, Pena hit .253 with 22 homers, 63 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. He enters the offseason as a top candidate for American League Rookie of the Year.

Pena becomes the first rookie position player to win World Series MVP and third rookie overall, joining Larry Sherry (1959) and Livan Hernandez (1997).

St. Louis Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado Earns 10th Consecutive Gold Glove Award

Make that a perfect 10 for Nolan Arenado

The 31-year-old Puerto Rican and Cuban American baseball player, a third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, has become the fourth infielder to win 10 consecutive Rawlings Gold Gloves, when baseball’s winners for the sport’s most prestigious fielding awards were announced on ESPN2 before Game 3 of the World Series.

Nolan ArenadoArenado has won the National League‘s Gold Glove at third base in each of his 10 seasons in the major leagues. That streak ties former Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki for the longest by a player at any position to start a career.

The only infielders who put together longer streaks were Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson (third base, 16 straight Gold Gloves) and Ozzie Smith (shortstop, 13 straight) and former Cardinals and New York Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez (11 straight).

The Gold Gloves once tended to favor repeat winners, but this year’s list of honorees marked a season of unprecedented change. A record 14 players won their first Gold Gloves, including all but one of the winners in the American League.

The AL‘s first timers were Cleveland Guardians pitcher Shane BieberNew York Yankees catcher Jose TrevinoToronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cleveland Guardians second baseman Andres GimenezBaltimore Orioles third baseman Ramon UriasHouston Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena, Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan, Guardians center fielder Myles Straw and Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker.

The AL’s only repeat winner was the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu, who was recognized as a utility player.

There was a little more familiarity among those who joined Arenado as Gold Glovers on the National League side. The first-time winners included Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian WalkerColorado Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers, Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby SwansonChicago Cubs left fielder Ian Happ and Cardinals utility player Brendan Donovan.

Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto won his second Glove Glove, joining Houston’s Pena and Tucker in learning of their honor during the lead-up to their World Series contest.

“It’s a pretty cool moment, for sure,” Pena said. “[Getting] congratulated by our teammates. We know the focus is the game, so we’re going to enjoy this for a little bit and then get ready for the game.”

Pena joined Kwan and Donovan as winners during their rookie seasons, another record. The only other time in which there has been even two rookie Gold Glovers was 2020 (Luis Robert and Evan White).

In taking the honor, Pena continued to prove a worthy successor at the position in Houston to Carlos Correa, who won the award last season. Pena became the first rookie shortstop to win a Gold Glove.

“I heard that today and I was in shock because I didn’t know that was a thing,” Pena said. “But it’s pretty cool.”

San Diego Padres center fielder Trent Grisham won for the second time, while Los Angeles Dodgers star right fielder Mookie Betts won his sixth Gold Glove. Atlanta Braves pitcher Max Fried was honored for the third time.

Here’s a look at the 2022 Gold Glove winners:

American League
P: Shane Bieber, Cleveland
C: Jose Trevino, New York
1B: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto
2B: Andres Gimenez, Cleveland
3B: Ramon Urias, Baltimore
SS: Jeremy Pena, Houston
LF: Steven Kwan, Cleveland
CF: Myles Straw, Cleveland
RF: Kyle Tucker, Houston

National League
P: Max Fried, Atlanta
C: J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia
1B: Christian Walker, Arizona
2B: Brendan Rodgers, Colorado
3B: Nolan Arenado, St. Louis
SS: Dansby Swanson, Atlanta
LF: Ian Happ, Chicago
CF: Trent Grisham, San Diego
RF: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles

Houston Astros Rookie Jeremy Peña Named American League Championship Series MVP

He may have just missed out on the American League Rookie of the Year Award, but Jeremy Peña is celebrating another title.

The 25-year-old Dominican professional baseball player and shortstop is returning to Houston as the American League Championship Series MVP.

Jeremy Peña,Peña punctuated his epic four-game run in the Houston Astros’ sweep of the New York Yankees with his third homer of the postseason during the third inning of a 6-5 win in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.

The big blast spoiled an early Yanks’ lead, took the ticketed crowd of 46,545 out of it and served as the proverbial turning point in the final game of a series that was never really close.

“It’s surreal,” Peña said. “You dream about this stuff when you’re a kid, and shout-out to my teammates. We show up every single day. We stayed true to ourselves all year. We’re a step away from the ultimate goal.”

Peña finished the ALCS 6-for-17 with two homers and two doubles, good for a .353/.353/.824 (1.176 OPS) slash line.

The finishing touch featured the shortstop pummeling a middle-in slider from Nestor Cortes after the Yanks’ lefty led off the inning with walks to Martín Maldonado and Jose Altuve for a massive blast down the left-field line.

Statcast measured the homer a projected 408 feet and 104.8 mph off the bat.

With one epic swing — hands in, hips torqued — Peña tied the game at 3 after the Yankees took an early lead against Lance McCullers Jr., the first time that Houston had trailed New York at the end of an in-game inning in 11 meetings this season. The only other times they trailed were via walk-offs from Aaron Judge during a series in June.

It was an impressive sequence of making a mid-at-bat adjustment. Cortes, who exited immediately after the homer with a left groin injury, wouldn’t throw Peña a fastball, instead attempting to jam cutters and sliders inside, with one changeup way off the plate. So, on the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Peña went hunting for offspeed ahead 3-1 in a hitter’s count — and he feasted when he saw the hanging breaking ball.

Peña knew he got all of it, transferring the barrel to his right hand as he paced out of the batter’s box, watching the ball sail before pinwheeling the lumber down the first-base line and breaking into a stride. As he rounded third base and glanced to the visiting dugout, he smiled toward his teammates and broke into a shrug, akin to the one that Michael Jordan made famous during the 1992 NBA Finals.

It was also another moment illustrating how well Houston has thrived with Peña hitting behind the leadoff man Jose Altuve. When Peña hit in the No. 2 hole during the regular season, the Astros went 42-7, and they entered Sunday undefeated this postseason with Peña hitting in that spot in every game.

“Jeremy has done a lot of good things,” Altuve said. “If I start talking about him, we might be here two hours. He’s a great player and I love the way he’s handling everything.”

Altuve and Carlos Correa had a relationship that Astros manager Dusty Baker likened to Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, so the words from Altuve — the 2019 ALCS MVP — carried weight.

“I think it’s important that Carlos passed the torch to him because I’ve seen some players don’t pass the torch,” Baker said. “They pass some dynamite. But Carlos passed the torch and he was a mentor to him. This is what baseball and life is all about, rooting for somebody else, because there’s a lot of jobs out there. We wanted to keep Carlos. Carlos wanted to stay but [we] couldn’t get things together. But the organization also felt that Peña was the right guy for the job, and he’s exceeded expectations.”

Aside from Sunday, Peña also put the Astros squarely on his shoulders with a solo homer in the 18th inning of their marathon ALDS Game 3 win in Seattle, the only run of what’s easily been Houston’s most tense game in these playoffs.

Peña’s 22 homers in the regular season were tied for sixth among shortstops and ranked second among first-year players to only Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez, who was named the AL Rookie of the Year Award winner. But Peña, who is good friends with fellow Dominican Rodríguez, will probably be fine with that given that his team is headed to the World Series.

Jeremy Peña Hits Solo Home Run to Help Houston Astros Sweep Seattle Mariners for Spot in AL Championship Series

Jeremy Peña is returning to Houston a hero…

The 25-year-old Dominican professional baseball player’s solo home run off Seattle Mariners reliever Penn Murfee provided the lone tally in the Houston Astros’ 1-0 victory that clinched a spot in the AL Championship Series for the sixth consecutive season.

Jeremy PeñaThis day, two decades in the making, seemed like it was never going to end. Game 3 of the American League Division Series between the top-seeded Astros and Mariners, hosting their first postseason game since 2001, featured epic pitching, exemplary defense and, finally, in the 18th inning, the only hit that mattered.

Never before had a postseason game gone scoreless for as long as Game 3 did. Its 18 innings tied a postseason record with three other games, its 6-hour, 22-minute run time the third longest ever. The 42 combined strikeouts set a record. The four combined walks and zero errors exemplified that this wasn’t just a battle of offensive ineptitude but rather a clinic in run prevention.

It was the capper of an oxymoronic outcome: the close sweep. While Houston took all three games in the best-of-five series, comeback victories in Games 1 and 2 showed that the Mariners were no fluke. They were simply not good enough to overcome Houston’s deep pitching staff and dangerous lineup.

“We kept putting the zero up there and they kept putting the zero up there, and you think we’re going to be able to break through because we have so many times,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It’s kind of what we’re accustomed to, playing those tight games and finding a way. … I mean, that is a big league game, with the pitching and defense that was fired out there. We just weren’t able to put anything together.”

In the game’s first half, the story centered around a pair of great starting pitching performances, by Seattle rookie George Kirby and Houston right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., who was battling an illness. Kirby threw seven brilliant shutout innings; McCullers nearly matched him with six. Each ceded to a bullpen that ranks among the best in baseball, something both showed as arm after arm entered and exited the game without allowing a run.

Seven Seattle relievers put up scoreless outings before Peña’s homer. Houston matched that number, led by Luis Garcia, the right-handed starter who finished with five shutout innings, allowed two hits and zero walks, struck out six and locked down the 18th to earn the victory.

Pena, the 25-year-old rookie who took over at shortstop upon the free agent departure of Carlos Correa, had provided the necessary run in the top of the inning. He entered the at-bat 0-for-7. He left it 1-for-8 after Murfee hung a slider, and Pena pummeled it out to center field.

“You could tell by his brightness in his eyes and his alertness on the field that he wasn’t scared and he wasn’t fazed by this,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Boy, he’s been a godsend to us, especially since we lost Carlos, because this could have been a disastrous situation had he not performed the way he has.”

Houston’s offense, the best in the American League this season, managed just 11 hits in 63 at-bats. Seattle’s offense, which lived by the home run this season, was 7-for-60. The Mariners struck out 22 times and drew three walks. The Astros walked just once against 20 punchouts. The defense was clean, none better than when Mariners star rookie Julio Rodriguez tracked down a Yuli Gurriel shot into the right-center-field gap in the 16th to save a pair of runs.

All night, “Ju-li-o” chants permeated T-Mobile Park, which 47,690 packed to see the Mariners’ first playoff team since the 2001 group that won 116 regular-season game but lost in the ALCS. While this Mariners core is likely to return to the playoffs in the coming years, the Astros are still the team through which the AL runs.

With a thin bullpen hamstringing them in past seasons, the Astros focused on sharpening it this year and after McCullers ran out a litany of power-armed relievers who each threw a scoreless inning: Hector NerisRafael MonteroRyan PresslyBryan Abreu and Ryne Stanek. Rookie Hunter Brown put up a pair of scoreless frames. And then came Garcia’s command performance.

“This at-bat,” Pena said of his home run, “was not going to be possible if our pitching staff didn’t keep us in the ballgame. They dominated all game. Their pitching staff dominated all game.”

The game resembled another from earlier this postseason, when the Cleveland Guardians and Tampa Bay Rays were scoreless until the 15th, when rookie Oscar Gonzalez hit a walk-off home run to clinch the wild card series for the Guardians. Excellent pitching has been the key for Houston, the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres, all of whom have advanced. Cleveland can grab the final championship-series spot and face the Astros with one more victory against the New York Yankees.

Houston Astros’ Yordan Alvarez Launches Go-Ahead, Two-Run Homer to Lead Team to Victory Over Seattle Mariners

Yordan Alvarez has done it again…

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball designated hitter and left fielder hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth inning off Seattle Mariners ace Luis Castillo that lifted the Houston Astros over the Mariners 4-2 on Thursday for a 2-0 lead in the AL Division Series.

Yordan Alvarez,Alvarez was the Game 1 hero with his gut-punch, three-run shot off 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 in which they had trailed by four.

With Thursday’s home run, Alvarez became the first player in Major League Baseball (MLB) postseason history to hit multiple career go-ahead homers in the sixth inning or later when his team was trailing, and both of his came in his past two games, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Castillo, acquired from the Cincinnati Reds near the trade deadline and coming off 7⅓ innings of shutout ball against Toronto Blue Jays in the wild-card round, gave up an early home run to Kyle Tucker but little else as he took a 2-1 lead into the sixth.

But with two outs, Jeremy Peña singled on a blooper that fell in between second baseman Adam Frazier and center fielder Julio Rodríguez. Castillo bent down and slapped his legs in disappointment as he watched the ball drop in shallow center.

That brought up Alvarez, who hit a 98 mph pitch tailing away to the opposite field, into the short porch in left to put the Astros on top 3-2.

Alvarez, who had 37 homers in the regular season, trotted around the bases as cameras panned to his Cuban parents, who are watching their first postseason series after arriving in Houston in August. The lefty pointed to them as he reached the plate before reenacting the powerful swing that has the Astros one win away from their sixth straight AL Championship Series.

There were two outs and a runner on first in the eighth when Seattle had surely seen enough of Alvarez leaving the yard. The Mariners intentionally walked him and Alex Bregman made them pay, adding some insurance when he singled to make it 4-2.

Houston starter Framber Valdez had a solid start, allowing four hits and two runs in 5⅔ innings. He had a different look than he did in his last postseason appearance after he and fellow pitcher Luis Garcia both got hair extensions this season.

Hector Neris earned the win after getting the last out of the sixth inning to escape a bases-loaded jam. Bryan Abreu got the first two outs of the seventh before Rafael Montero came in and threw 1⅓ scoreless innings.

Ryan Pressly walked the leadoff batter in the ninth before J.P. Crawford lined into a double play. Rodríguez doubled after that, but Pressly struck out Ty France for the save. The Astros won despite issuing seven walks overall.

The Mariners will head back 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.

Yordan Alvarez Smashes Game-Ending, Three-Run Homer to Lead Houston Astros to Game 1 Win vs. the Seattle Mariners

It’s a smashing moment for Yordan Alvarez. 

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball designated hitter and left fielder for the Houston Astros smashed a game-ending, three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning off Robbie Ray, wrecking the Seattle Mariners‘ strategy of using a Cy Young Award winner in a rare relief role and vaulting the Astros to an 8-7 victory on Tuesday in their playoff opener.

Yordan AlvarezTrailing all game after a poor start by Justin Verlander, the AL West champion Astros overtook rookie star Julio Rodriguez and the wildcard Mariners at the end to begin their best-of-five division series.

Houston was down 7-5 when rookie pinch-hitter David Hensley reached with one out in the ninth as Seattle closer Paul Sewald grazed his jersey with a pitch.

Sewald struck out Jose Altuve before Jeremy Pena laced a single to center field to chase Sewald.

Mariners manager Scott Servais then made the bold move to bring in Ray, who started Saturday at Toronto in the AL Wild Card Series, for a lefty vs. lefty matchup with Alvarez. Ray, who won the Cy Young last year with Toronto, had made only six relief appearances in his career and had never earned a pro save.

Alvarez, who hit 37 homers in the regular season, sent Ray’s second pitch deep into the seats in right field to set off a wild celebration with his parents in the stands.

“I think it’s one of the most special moments that I’ve had in my career,” Alvarez said. “Having them there and just for the city of Houston they know that we’re a team that never gives up, so just being able to get that hit there was one of the most special moments in his career.”

His blast was the second walk-off home run in postseason history by a team down to its final out, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The other was Kirk Gibson‘s walk-off home run off Dennis Eckersley to lift the Los Angeles Dodgers to a Game 1 victory over the Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series.

The home run had an exit velocity of 116.7 mph, the fourth-fastest of the 546 walk-off home runs in the Statcast era and the highest ever in the postseason.

Servais said the decision to use Ray was something they had thought about.

“It was something going into the series where we were at, looking at our rotation, where we were going to head, and talking with Robbie about using him out of the bullpen as a bullet, so to speak, for that type of scenario,” he said. “You know, bringing in a lefty against Alvarez, although Alvarez is one of the better hitters in the league.

“But we talked about it coming into the series. We talked about it pregame today. I looked at it in the seventh inning and said, ‘Hey, this could happen.’ So that was the plan going in.”

Houston skipper Dusty Baker, who managed Servais while with the San Francisco Giants, refused to second-guess his former player.

“If he gets him out, then it looks great … next time Robbie Ray could win, but today we won,” Baker said.

The Mariners jumped on Verlander for six runs in just four innings to build a 6-2 lead early. Yuli Gurriel hit a solo homer in the Houston fourth before Eugenio Suarez‘s solo shot in the seventh extended Seattle’s lead to 7-3.

A two-run homer by Alex Bregman off Andres Munoz cut the lead to 7-5 in the eighth inning to set up the dramatic finish.

Yordan Alvarez Hits Three Home Runs to Help Houston Astros Clinch Playoff Berth

It’s a smashing night for Yordan Alvarez

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball designated hitter and left fielder hit three monster home runs to help the Houston Astros past the Oakland Athletics 5-0.

Yordan AlvarezAlvarez homered in his first three at-bats, to help the Astros clinch a postseason berth on Friday night.

The Astros (95-50) won their sixth straight game to join the Los Angeles Dodgers as the first two teams to secure playoff spots, reaching their sixth straight postseason.

There was no big celebration for this team with much bigger goals, but the Astros did share a quiet toast in the clubhouse postgame.

“You’ve got to keep in perspective … how hard it is to get to the playoffs and to stay on top like this for a while,” Verlander said. “It’s not easy. So I’m glad we were able to take a moment.”

Alvarez, tied for second in the AL with a career-high 36 home runs, had solo shots off Adrian Martinez in the first, third and fifth innings. He capped his big night with a single in the seventh to tie his career high with four hits.

“Hitting one home run feels great, imagine hitting three,” Alvarez said in Spanish through an interpreter. “Just a very special night.”

It is his second three-homer game and first since August 10, 2019, a season when he won American League Rookie of the Year. There have been only 15 three-homer games in Houston history and Alvarez joined Glenn Davis and Jeff Bagwell as the only Astros to have more than one.

Alvarez’s homers totaled 1,329 feet — 434, 431 and 464. He joined Nelson Cruz on July 25, 2019, as the only players with three 400-plus foot homers in a game since Statcast started tracking in 2015.

“Yordan was unbelievable,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Those balls he hit, I don’t know what the combined feet were, but boy that’s a lot of mileage.”

There were two outs in the first when Alvarez connected on a shot to straightaway center field to make it 1-0.

Alvarez’s second homer came with two outs in the third to extend the lead to 2-0.

Jeremy Pena hit his 18th homer to left field with one out in the fifth. The Astros went back-to-back when Alvarez sent the next pitch from Martinez into center field to extend the lead to 4-0 and send Houston’s dugout and the crowd into a frenzy.

“You take Alvarez out of the lineup and the line’s a lot different,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. “Yordan is a guy that I referred to before the season started as a possible MVP candidate. And he showed why tonight.”

Framber Valdez Ties MLB Quality Start Record with Career-First Shutout

Framber Valdez is on a monumental streak… And, he’s capping it off with a historic night.

The 28-year-old Dominican professional baseball pitcher threw his first career shutout and the Houston Astros beat the Detroit Tigers 7-0 on Monday night.

Framber ValdezValdez (15-5) posted his 24th straight quality start, tying New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom (2018) for the longest single-season streak.

“This means a lot to me, because it means I’m helping the team when I’m pitching,” Valdez said through a translator. “They help me with their great defense and their offense, and I know I’m giving them a chance to win.”

The All-Star left-hander gave up six hits and struck out eight with one walk.

“That’s a monumental streak — a lot of great pitchers have never come close to getting there,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Players know when they are getting close to something like that, and that doesn’t bother me, because I know it motivates them to excellence.”

Valdez became the 12th major league pitcher to throw a shutout this season — on track for the fewest in a full season since eight in 1873. No pitcher has more than one.

It was just the 28th complete game in the big leagues this year — down from 50 during the entire 2021 season.

The Tigers were shut out for the second day in a row and club-record 21st time this season, tying them with the 1973 New York Yankees and 1976 Chicago White Sox for most by a team with a designated hitter.

Detroit had runners thrown out at the plate in the first and third innings.

“We made a couple young mistakes early, because we’re struggling to score and we’re trying to make things happen,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “That’s 91 wins for them, and a lot of that comes from elite defense.”

Jeremy Pena had three hits for the Astros and scored twice.

“We scored quite a few runs and I think we could have more,” Baker said. “I’m just happy with the results.”

Tigers starter Eduardo Rodriguez (3-5) allowed five runs on 10 hits and a walk in five innings.

“They just keep the line moving when they get something going,” Hinch said. “Eduardo wasn’t sharp and they got to him.”

Jose Altuve started the game with a single, stole second and scored on Pena’s single. Pena also stole second and Alex Bregman’s RBI single made it 2-0.

Valdez said the two outs at the plate inspired him to go for his first shutout.

“Once I got out of the third inning, I knew I had a chance,” he said. “That’s always a goal of mine, and today I wanted to get it because I was getting such great defensive plays.”

In the third, the Astros managed to add a run on an inning-ending double play. With the bases loaded, Kyle Tucker hit a grounder to shortstop Javy Baez, who was shifted to the right side. Bregman froze between first and second, preventing Baez from tagging him. Detroit turned the 6-3-4 double play, but Pena scored from third before the Tigers could retire Bregman.

Tucker made it 4-0 with an RBI groundout in the fifth and Yuli Gurriel followed with a run-scoring double.

Tucker added a two-run single in the ninth.

As usual, Valdez picked the team’s navy blue jerseys for his start, but said it wasn’t for superstitious reasons.

“I don’t know why, but they feel lighter to me,” he said. “We’re going to keep wearing them when I pitch.”