The worst-case scenario for Houston Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez in the field happened last week when he collided with shortstop Jeremy Pena while both tracked a popup in the eighth inning against the New York Mets.
The Astros were without Alvarez and his MVP-caliber bat for two games while he completed concussion protocols. But on Tuesday, in the second game of a four-game series against the visiting Kansas City Royals, the Astros witnessed the best of Alvarez in the outfield and at the plate.
Alvarez snuffed a Kansas City threat in the top of the eighth inning by completing a double play with a precise throw to the plate that erased Hunter Dozier. He then socked his 25th home run in the bottom half to help carry the Astros to a 9-7 victory that extended their winning streak to eight.
The Astros have been judicious with their usage of Alvarez in the field. He made his 32nd start in left on Tuesday while he’s made an additional 38 as the designated hitter. His growth defensively has been marked, but it is his bat that remains his calling card and the reason why the Astros want to exercise caution regarding the frequency with which he plays the field.
“He’s worked on his defense a lot,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ve still got to protect him and keep him strong and DH him as much as we’re playing him because we certainly can’t lose this guy in the lineup.”
Alvarez is batting .313 with 25 home runs and 58 RBIs.
Right-hander Cristian Javier (6-3, 2.58 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Wednesday. He has been exceptional over his past two starts, recording 27 strikeouts against one hit and one walk while allowing one run over 14 innings in wins over the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels.
Javier threw seven innings as part of a combined no-hitter against the Yankees on June 25 before recording a career-high 14 strikeouts against the Angels six days later.
Javier has a 3.86 ERA and one save over two career relief appearances against the Royals.
Right-hander Brad Keller (3-9, 4.24) has the starting assignment for the Royals on Wednesday. It will mark a club-high 16th start this season and the 99th of his career. Keller notched his team-leading eighth quality start against the Detroit Tigers on July 1, allowing five hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six scoreless innings in what was a 3-1 Royals win.
Keller is 2-4 with a 4.24 ERA in seven road starts this season with wins in his past two outings away from Kansas City.
Keller has faced Houston once previously, allowing three runs on nine hits and three walks, with one strikeout over six innings on June 17, 2018. He did not factor into the decision of a 7-4 loss.
On Tuesday, veteran right-hander Zack Greinke endured a rough start against his former club, allowing six runs on 10 hits and two walks, with two strikeouts over five innings. A member of the Astros from 2019-21, he went 22-10 with a 3.89 ERA over 52 appearances (51 starts) with the Astros and made World Series appearances in 2019 and 2021.
“Just trying to get outs was my only thought,” Greinke said. “Good lineup but most of them have a place you should pitch. Just wasn’t executing good enough. That’s my thought when facing them.”
–Field Level Media