After number three, Yordan Alvarez finds himself getting pelted with flying popcorn, gum and candy in the Houston Astros dugout. Veterans Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel give him the fake cold shoulder, feigning like he simply hits too many of these things to celebrate. Of course, the truth is these Astros can never get enough of Yordan destroying baseballs.
But it’s more fun to pretend otherwise.
“That’s what they did,” Alvarez says when I ask him about the flying popcorn dugout scene. “They just threw a couple of things at me. Nobody wanted to talk to me then.
“Hopefully tomorrow, they’ll talk to me.”
Some feats are so majestic that words cannot begin to do them justice. Yordan Alvarez hitting three home runs in a night — three mammoth shots, one after the other, in the span of three at-bats — certainly more than qualifies on that scale. That he does it in Justin Verlander’s return game, on the night the Astros officially clinch the franchise’s sixth straight playoff berth with a 5-0 win over the hapless A’s, only adds to the wonder.
“It’s pretty cool when a Major League player can make other Major League players be in awe,” Verlander says. “It’s not something that happens all too often. And that was kind of like one of those moments where everybody’s just like. . .”
Verlander throws up his hands, demonstrating the sense of bewilderment when Alvarez hits number three on this unforgettable Friday night.
“My goodness. It’s just incredible what he’s able to do,” Verlander continues. “I’ve only seen a few guys that have been able to do stuff like that in the course of my career. Miggy (Miguel Cabrera) in his Triple Crown season (with the Tigers). It seemed like he had a lot of people in awe of him. Yordan does it quite often. Jose Altuve is somebody that does it.
“But yeah, it seems like Yordan more than a few times a year, his peers have their jaw drop. Which is pretty cool.”
It is downright magical, one of those nights that make everyone lose their minds. That Alvarez does it with his family in the stands — his wife Monica and his parents and younger brother, who he recently was able to finally bring over from Cuba — makes it mean more to the hulking slugger with the quick smile.
“Very happy,” Alvarez says of having those closest to him in the Minute Maid stands. “Very special. My family seeing the first three homers of the game. That’s not something you see every night.”
For even most superstars, it’s something you’re lucky to see once. Yordan Alvarez already has done it twice. That’s the second three home run game of his career. And he’s still just 25 years old.
“Incredible,” Verlander says. “He’s one of the best hitters I’ve ever played with. I would say it’s a surprising night, but it wasn’t.”
It seems fitting that Reggie Jackson, who built his own legend on hitting three home runs in a World Series game, is in the building for the moment. Like Jackson in 1977, Yordan pulls off his threefer in three consecutive at-bats. Jackson is an advisor to Astros owner Jim Crane these days — and he’s spotted in the press box after Alvarez home run number three.
“They just threw a couple of things at me. Nobody wanted to talk to me then. Hopefully tomorrow, they’ll talk to me.” — Yordan Alvarez on the flying popcorn third home run celebration
Yordan Alvarez Gets Ready For October
This isn’t about just one night for Yordan and the Astros though. This spree is just as big a development as Verlander returning after being sidelined for 18 days in the midst of a Cy Young worthy season.
When Yordan Alvarez is obliterating baseballs into night, this Astros lineup takes on a much more fearsome dimension. It’s a wonder that the Oakland A’s are pitching to Alvarez, but they do. And pay for it. Dearly.
Alvarez’s first home run rockets into the deepest part of the ballpark, clearing the centerfield wall and traveling 434 feet. His second soars higher, over the Phillips 66 Home Run Tracking gas pump, and just three feet shorter. His third is deepest yet, a flying rainbow that lands deep into the party deck seating and gets measured at 464 feet.
There are moon landings that aren’t this majestic.
In all, Alvarez accounts for 1,329 feet of home runs in just three swings. So much for that worry over his hands.
Oakland A’s rookie starter Adrian Martinez gives up Yordan’s three home runs in just five innings. Maybe Martinez wanted to check thrice that Alvarez could hit him. The answer? Three resounding bombs.
The only shame is that only 33,850 Astros fans are in Minute Maid Park to see it. These Astros are the most consistently entertaining show in all of Houston sports. That should never be taken for granted.
In one night, Yordan jumps from fourth to second in the American League home run race, jumping Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout in three at-bats. (Playing on the West Coast, Trout later ties him back up at 36 home runs each).
When Yordan Alvarez is locked in and feeling good, the Astros may be the scariest team in baseball. For as great as the Dodgers are, they don’t have a singular force quite like Yordan.
Alvarez hit only three home runs from July 30 through September 15th, a stretch in which he played 35 games. He matches those three in a stretch of three at-bats on this night.
And makes everyone — including all the other Major League millionaires — shake their heads in wonder while doing it.
“Special,” Alvarez says. “Hitting one home run feels great. Imagine hitting three. . .”
Yordan Alvarez is one of the few people on the planet who don’t have to imagine such a thing. He lives it.
It’s that kind of night at Minute Maid Park, one that everyone who was there will brag about having been there to someone in their life. The night Yordan goes moon shot bonkers and Verlander comes right off the injured list with no-hit stuff. A night that ends with a team champagne toast to celebrate that playoff clinch.
Verlander shows about as much rust in his return from the injured list as a brand new Maybach. Six of the first seven pitches he throws are strikes. He needs only 13 pitches to get out of the first inning. He already has six strikeouts after three innings.
Few people slip back into dominance quite like Justin Brooks Verlander.
He allows only a lone walk and a hit batter in his five innings of return work. He strikes out nine of the 17 batters he faces, does not allow a hit. Limiting Verlander to 77 pitches is smart. But this fortune-shifting Astros ace already looks all the way back. And ready for much more.
“I felt a little rust,” Verlander says. “But that’s to be expected. And probably less than I thought.”
Alvarez is all about making more. More power. More moments. More wows.
His teammates may not have wanted to talk to Alvarez after that ridiculous third home run. But everyone who witnessed it will be talking about this game — and those three monster home runs — for a long, long time.
That’s worth some flying popcorn.