Yuli Gurriel’s career is in full swing…
The 37-year-old Cuban professional baseball first baseman, nicknamed “La Piña”, hit a winning RBI single in the ninth inning, and the AL West champion Houston Astros headed to the postseason with a 7-6 win over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.
Gurriel, the American League batting champion, hit .319 and became Houston’s second player to win a batting title after Jose Altuve in 2014, ’16 and ’17. Gurriel became the second Cuban-born big league batting champion following Tony Oliva in 1964, ’65 and 1971.
“It’s something really important,” Gurriel said through a translator. “I think everybody knows it’s a big deal, and it’s tough to win a batting title, so that means a lot. I was fine either way with playing today. … It turned out that I was able to be there in the end, so it all worked out.”
Gurriel, who entered in the ninth as a defensive replacement, singled to left off Lou Trivino (7-8) to score Jason Castro, who had singled starting the inning and took third on Yordan Álvarez’s one-out double.
Gurriel said he wasn’t prepared to hit on Sunday and hadn’t taken a swing all day before the at bat, but he had a positive mindset to get a hit.
“He didn’t sit on it,” said Houston manager Dusty Baker, who claimed he predicted to bench coach Joe Espada the previous inning that “Yuli is going to win this game. Walkoff.”
Oakland was 86-76, finishing nine games behind the Astros in third place.