Yordan Alvarez belts walk-off HR, lifts Astros over M’s in Game 1

HOUSTON — Yordan Alvarez smacked a walk-off, three-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning as the Houston Astros stormed back from a trio of four-run deficits to defeat the Seattle Mariners 8-7 in Game 1 of their American League Division Series on Tuesday.

The Astros’ left fielder capped a 3-for-5, five-RBI performance with his walk-off shot to complete the Houston comeback. The Astros trailed 4-0 in the second inning, 6-2 in the fourth and 7-3 in the seventh before fashioning their stunning rally, scoring a combined five runs off Andres Munoz, Paul Sewald and Robbie Ray.

With history calling, Alvarez drilled an 0-1 sinker from Ray into the upper deck in right. Alvarez became the second player in major league history to record a walk-off postseason home run with his team down to the final out, with Kirk Gibson doing so in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. It marked the first walk-off postseason homer with a team trailing by multiple runs and the seventh in Astros history, their first since Carlos Correa ended Game 5 of the 2020 ALCS.

“Very emotional, very special moment,” Alvarez said. “(Astros starter) Justin Verlander didn’t have the greatest outing, didn’t have the outing that we’re used to seeing from him. But just very special that I was able to help the team win.

“When I hit that ball and I saw the ball go, obviously, I could feel all the fans getting super loud and super excited. And I’m still super excited. To this moment, I still haven’t fully assimilated what happened, but I think it’s just one of the most special moments of my career.”

The Mariners can relate to how the end of Tuesday’s game felt from the opposite dugout. Seattle rallied from a seven-run deficit to oust the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday and sweep that best-of-three AL wild-card series.

The Mariners rocked Verlander, Houston’s best pitcher, and were three outs away from securing a 1-0 series lead with their ace, Luis Castillo, scheduled to start Game 2 on Thursday. Now the onus falls upon Seattle to rebound from this staggering blow, a haymaker that came unexpectedly.

“Yeah, it’s a tough one, there’s no question about it,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I thought we played a very good ball game today. We did a lot of great things offensively. Certainly, we got on Verlander early in the game and did exactly what we needed to do there.

“But as I talked early about it and our team about it, it’s like a heavyweight fight. You’re going to get punched. It’s how you respond in those moments and that’s a tough one.”

Verlander, making his first postseason start since Game 6 of the 2019 World Series, did not look the part of an AL Cy Young Award favorite. He allowed six runs on 10 hits and one walk with three strikeouts over four innings, matching the most earned runs he’s allowed in a postseason start while surpassing the eight hits he surrendered in Game 5 of the 2011 AL Championship Series against the Texas Rangers. Houston lamented the five days between its regular-season finale and the series opener against the Mariners, and Verlander appeared rusty given the results.

But Houston kept pushing back offensively. Alvarez produced a two-run double off Seattle starter Logan Gilbert that sliced a 4-0 deficit in half. Yuli Gurriel smacked a leadoff home run off Gilbert in the fourth that pulled Houston to within 6-3.

When Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suarez smoked a solo home run to left off Astros reliever Cristian Javier with one out in the seventh, Seattle appeared to have finally wrested control of Game 1. But Alex Bregman clubbed his 13th career postseason homer — tied with the Dodgers’ Justin Turner for the most all-time by a third baseman — off Munoz in the eighth, scoring Alvarez, as Houston clawed to within 7-5.

Rafael Montero (1-0) pitched a perfect ninth for the Astros. In the bottom of the inning, Sewald got two outs, but hit pinch hitter David Hensley with a pitch before allowing a single to another rookie, Jeremy Pena. Servais removed Sewald in favor of the lefty Ray (0-1) to pitch to Alvarez.

“Today I thought we had it in hand,” Servais said. “You got to give them credit. Certainly, they have been in this spot many times before and you don’t quit.” — Reuters