Ace Justin Verlander had just wrapped up another strong start on Friday and was in the dugout in the fifth inning when Yordan Alvarez launched his third monster home run of the night in the Houston Astros’ 5-0 win over the Oakland Athletics.
The cameras panned to Verlander, eyes wide as he admired his teammate’s handiwork.
“It’s pretty cool when a major-league player can make other major-league players be in awe,” Verlander said. “It’s not something that happens all too often. And that was kind of one of those moments where everybody is just like: ‘My goodness.’ It’s just incredible what he’s able to do.”
Photo: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY
Alvarez homered in his first three at-bats, while Verlander threw five hitless innings in his return from the injured list as the Astros clinched a post-season berth.
The Astros (95-50) won their sixth straight game to join the Los Angeles Dodgers as the first two teams to secure playoff spots, reaching their sixth straight post-season.
There was no big celebration for this team with much bigger goals, but the Astros did share a quiet toast in the clubhouse post-game.
“You’ve got to keep in perspective ... how hard it is to get to the playoffs and to stay on top like this for a while,” Verlander said. “It’s not easy. So I’m glad we were able to take a moment.”
Alvarez, who is tied for second in the American League with a career-high 36 home runs, had solo shots off Adrian Martinez in the first, third and fifth innings. He capped his big night with a single in the seventh to tie his career high with four hits.
“Hitting one home run feels great, imagine hitting three,” Alvarez said in Spanish through a translator. “Just a very special night.”
TWO TO 700
In St Louis, Missouri, Albert Pujols hit his 698th home run, a tying two-run drive in the sixth inning that sparked the St Louis Cardinals over the Cincinnati Reds 6-5.
Pujols hit a first-pitch slider from Raynel Espinal into the left-field stands for his 19th home run this season, tying the score at 4-4.
Pujols trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the career list.
“It’s just being out there and contributing to this ballclub and this organization,” Pujols said. “I think just getting every opportunity that I’ve been getting, especially lately, and just trying to help this ballclub to win.”
In Anaheim, California, Mike Trout homered for the eighth time in 10 games as the Los Angeles Angels tripped up the Seattle Mariners’ AL wild-card run with an 8-7 victory.
Trout homered in seven straight games, one shy of the big-leagues record, before failing to hit one on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Cleveland Guardians.
He put the Angels ahead 5-3 when he led off the fifth with his 36th home run of the season, tying an Angel Stadium record by homering in a fifth straight game.
Seattle (80-63) dropped one game behind the Toronto Blue Jays (82-63) for the top AL wild card and remained a half-game in front of the Tampa Bay Rays (80-64), who are in the third and last wild-card spot.
In other games on Friday, it was:
‧ Braves 7, Phillies 2
‧ Mets 4, Pirates 3
‧ Giants 0, Dodgers 5
‧ Red Sox 2, Royals 1
‧ Nationals 5, Marlins 4
‧ Blue Jays 6, Orioles 3
‧ Guardians 4, Twins 3
‧ Brewers 7, Yankees 6
‧ Diamondbacks 3, Padres 12
‧ Tigers 3, White Sox 2 (10i)
‧ Rays 3, Rangers 4
‧ Cubs 2, Rockies 1
Germany forward Thomas Mueller on Thursday said that his country’s second successive first-round exit from the FIFA World Cup was an “absolute catastrophe,” which teammate Kai Havertz likened to “watching a horror movie.” Germany beat Costa Rica, but Spain’s defeat to Japan meant Germany finished third in Group E behind Spain, with the teams equal on four points and the positions decided only by goal difference. “It is unbelievably bitter for us because our result would have been enough,” Mueller said. “It’s a feeling of powerlessness.” Mueller was part of the 2014 World Cup-winning team and was also in the side who were
Taiwanese-American basketballer Jeremy Lin, who plays for a Chinese team, was fined 10,000 yuan (US$1,400) for “inappropriate remarks” on social media about quarantine facilities ahead of a game, the China Basketball Association said yesterday. Lin, who plays for the Loong Lions Basketball Club, made “inappropriate remarks about quarantine hotel-related facilities” where the team stayed on Wednesday ahead of a game, the association said. It said that “caused adverse effects on the league and the competition area.” The Chinese Communist Party is trying to crush criticism of the human cost and disruption of its “zero COVID-19” strategy, which has confined millions of people to
Taiwan’s top two badminton players, Tai Tzu-ying and Chou Tien-chen, are today to compete at the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals in Bangkok. Tai, who is world No. 3 in women’s singles, is to compete in Group B in the eight-player draw with world No. 5 He Bingjiao of China, and world No. 7 Ratchanok Intanon and world No. 10 Busanan Ongbamrungphan of Thailand. Group A features world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, world No. 2 An Se-young of South Korea, world No. 4 Chen Yufei of China and world No. 18 Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia. Tai, who has struggled at
‘ASIA CAN WIN’: Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu said their victories at the tournament so far against top sides show that Asian teams can win on the world stage Japan erupted in cheers and tears after the national team’s 2-1 win over Spain, with crowds in the early hours of yesterday in the nation packing public viewing areas shrieking with joy as they stunned another global soccer power at the FIFA World Cup. Japan, who had also shocked Germany in their opener in Qatar, finished top of Group E to reach the last 16, a stage where they have faltered three times before. They are to play 2018 runners-up Croatia for a place in the quarter-finals. “Doha Delights Again!” one newspaper headlined its online edition, evoking memories of what the media called