Pa Jordan Shusterman
Posted by FOX Sports MLB

“You know you have a chance when Jordan steps up to the plate.”

That’s what Astros manager Dusty Baker said after Houston heroic game 1 win, kindly Jordan Alvarez an epic blast on Robbie Ray’s second deck.

“When it doesn’t go through, you’re almost surprised,” Baker continued. “You know nobody can do it all the time, but he’s very good at it.”

Fast forward 48 hours, and the Astros lost to the Mariners again, just like they did in Game 1 — this time 2-1 in the sixth inning. But Alvarez came to the plate, so they had a chance.

On the other hand, Mariners manager Scott Servais was asked over the weekend about how Alvarez’s historic performance in Game 1 will affect how they pitch against him. In addition to trying to explain why he went for Ray in that spot, Servay also went out of his way to bring up Alvarez’s eighth-inning hit in Game 1 that preceded Alex Bregman The homer cut Seattle’s lead to two.

“Andres Munoz, in my opinion, might have the best slider in the game. [Alvarez] took a 94 mph slider and hit it 114 mph off the fence. We made a good pitch. We threw our best pitcher, threw his best pitch to their best hitter. He got it. If the same thing happens [in Game 2]we can win this.”

It was fair. Sometimes you just get beat by a good hitter, but that won’t always be the case. And yet, when Mariners ace Luis Castillo, in the midst of another dynamite start, threw Alvarez his best pitch — a 98-mph sinker off the edge of the plate in the sixth inning — Alvarez still managed to get it. Again.

Houston won the game 4-2. Alvarez’s postseason legend continues to grow, and the mighty Astros are now one win away from their sixth straight trip to the ALCS.

What went right for Houston:

Starter Framber Valdez was solid outside of a messy fourth inning where his team ran away from him, but Game 2 was really about the star power of Houston’s lineup, even behind Alvarez. Kyle Tucker scoring started with an absolute shot from the moon — a launch angle of 43 degrees! — from the right of Luis Castillo:

Later in the ninth, after Alvarez had already given the Astros the lead, a Jeremy Pena two outs against Mariner Andres Munas again brought the fearsome hitter to the plate with a chance to do more damage. Instead, Serve decided to deliberately pass Alvarez and push Pena into scoring position. Just one problem: Alex Bregman was on deck, having already reached Muñas in the first game. Munoz lined a 101 mph heater on the outer half, but it didn’t matter — Bregman put it the other way to score Penn for the insurance run.

It’s hard to blame Cerve for avoiding Alvarez entirely, but when one of the other best players in the league is hitting behind him, there simply aren’t any easy answers.

And although Jose Altuve was 0-for-4 (and now 0-8 in the series), he made two great plays on balls hit to center, one against Ty France in the fourth and another to pinch hitter Julio Rodriguez in the third:

What went wrong for Seattle:

Castillo was just great and not exactly perfect, which was just not good enough against a lineup of the Astros caliber. However, it would be pretty harsh to actually pin that L to Castillo, regardless of what the box says. If this does turn out to be Castillo’s last outing in 2022, Mariners fans should be ecstatic knowing he’ll be around for the long haul. The biggest problem in Game 2 was Seattle’s absence for the first time this season, allowing just two hits on five at-bats. Granted, they had some scoring chances that came quite short, including some particularly painful ones late in the game as they tried to fight back. Leading the way in the eighth was pinch-hitter Jared Kelenich ripped a single into deep right field that died in front of the fence. Adam Frazier then reached in the ninth in the leadoff hit, but was quickly erased when J.P. Crawford singled to Yuli Guriel who calmly stepped onto first base for a double play. That made Julio Rodriguez’s scorching double to left field in the next inning fairly harmless.

However, overall the Mariners’ offense was not enough to beat a team like Houston. In particular, their All-Star pairing — Rodriguez and Ty France — who combined for five hits and four RBIs in Game 1, went 1-for-9 in Game 2. Once back, the leaders will need to be at it again. at home when the Mariners will have a chance to make this series competitive.

Key moment: The Bloop Before the Blast

Just like in Game 1, it was a hit before Alvarez’s blast that deserves extra credit. With two outs and nobody on, Castillo delivered a 98-mph heater to Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena, who hit it for a bloop single into center field. In a cruel irony, Seattle fell victim to a ball almost identical to the one that hit J.J. P. Crawford in Game 2 vs. Toronto, who hit between Bo Bichette and George Springer and allowed three runs to tie the game in the 8th.

Pena single: 71.3 mph exit velocity, 40 degree launch angle, 239 feet

Crawford Twin: 70.4 mph exit velocity, 38 degree launch angle, 234 feet

This one thankfully didn’t have a nasty collision, but it did give Alvarez an opportunity to come to the plate with two cars and be the hero again.

What happens next

This series moves to Seattle, where fans have looked forward to experiencing postseason baseball at home for more than two decades. The Mariners’ prospects in this series may look bleak at 2-0, but Seattle fans will certainly be grateful for at least one home game in the playoffs, something that wasn’t guaranteed at the start of the postseason. They will hand the ball to talented 24-year-old right-hander George Kirby, who will join Braves right-hander Spencer Strider as the only rookies slated to start a postseason game this October. He will be up against a seasoned veteran in the postseason Lance McCullers Jr., who posted a 2.27 ERA in eight starts this season after returning in August from a sprained forearm that kept him out for the first four months. However, none of those eight starts came against Seattle, so the Mariners’ hitters facing McCullers Jr. will be relatively fresh and their season on the line.

Jordan Shusterman is half @Cespede’s BBQ and a baseball writer for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_.


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