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Yordan Alvarez belts walk-off HR, lifts Astros

HOUSTON — Yordan Alvarez smacked a walk-off, three-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning as the Houston Astros rallied 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.

Alvarez drilled an 0-1 sinker off Mariners left-hander Robbie Ray (0-1) into the right-field seats to lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead with Game 2 set for Thursday. Houston trailed 4-0 in the second inning, 6-2 in the fourth and 7-3 in the seventh before rallying to stun Seattle with five runs in their last two at-bats.

Pinch-hitter David Hensley started the ninth-inning comeback by reaching on a hit by pitch from Seattle right-hander Paul Sewald. Jeremy Pena chased Sewald with a single to center to set the table for Alvarez, whose 438-foot rocket off Ray followed.

Alvarez became the second player in MLB postseason history to hit a walk-off home run with two outs and his team trailing at the time of the at-bat, joining only Kirk Gibson (Game 1 of the 1988 World Series).

Ray was summoned to face the left-handed-hitting Alvarez. Ray made 32 starts for the Mariners during the regular season.

The Astros closed to within two runs in the third on a two-run double from Alvarez off Seattle starter Logan Gilbert that sliced the margin to 4-2.

After Seattle reclaimed its four-run lead at 7-3 on Eugenio Suarez’s solo homer to left in the seventh, Alex Bregman smacked a two-run homer in the eighth off Mariners reliever Andres Munoz that plated Alvarez, who singled with one out.

Alvarez finished 3-for-5 with five RBIs. Rafael Montero (1-0) earned the win with a perfect ninth.

Julio Rodriguez recorded two extra-base hits and scored three runs while J.P. Crawford also homered for the Mariners, who rocked Astros starter Justin Verlander.

Rodriguez, the AL Rookie of the Year frontrunner, reached base safely in his first three plate appearances and scored each time. He went 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, a triple and two RBIs.

The Mariners got to Verlander early, with three of their first four batters reaching in the top of the first. Rodriguez walked and scored on a Cal Raleigh single to right field and Verlander had to labor to strand Ty France and Raleigh on the corners in his 24-pitch frame.

Seattle maintained the pressure in the second as Adam Frazier and Jarred Kelenic delivered back-to-back singles. They tagged when Crawford followed with a flyout to deep center, setting the table for Rodriguez, whose two-run double to right-center lifted Seattle to a 3-0 lead. France produced an RBI single before Verlander induced a much-needed, inning-ending double play.

Verlander appeared to steady himself, retiring the side in order in the third before striking out Frazier and Kelenic to open the fourth. But Crawford followed with a solo home run down the right-field line and Rodriguez tripled to left-center before scoring on France’s double that extended the lead to 6-2. France was erased at home trying to score on Suarez’s single to left.

Making his first postseason start since Game 6 of the 2019 World Series, Verlander allowed six runs on 10 hits and one walk with three strikeouts over four innings. He had allowed six earned runs in the postseason once previously, while the hits total represented a postseason high.

–By MK Bower, Field Level Media

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