Perfection? The night just couldn’t have been more perfect. Think about domination and you’ll get exactly Friday’s game. With three home runs from Yordan Álvarez and a flawless Justin Verlander –returning from the IL—, the Astros defeated the Athletics 5-0 and reached a postseason berth. For the sixth consecutive year, they’ll be playing in October.
On Friday, the Astros reached the playoffs in fashion, just demolishing the A’s in the series opener en route to their sixth straight win. Yordan’s first-inning four-bagger against starter Adrián Martínez was the spark for a brilliant showing in front of 33,850 souls at Minute Maid Park.
In the third, Álvarez launched his 35th bomb of the campaign, also a solo jack to put the Astros ahead 2-0. In spite of being up only by two runs, Verlander was throwing pure evil and kept opposing hitters off throughout the night.
The fifth inning was a key one. First, Jeremy Peña hit a home run of their own (18). And the atypical, special thing was about to be seen: Álvarez clubbed a mammoth dinger for his 36th of the season and third of the night, the second-longest home run of his career (464 feet).
Air Yordan becomes only the third player in Astros history with two or more three-homer games. The other two are Jeff Bagwell (3) and Glenn Davis (2). He’s also the fourth Cuban player to record the homer trifecta twice, along with Kendrys Morales, José Canseco, and Yoenis Céspedes.
With the Astros winning 4-0, Verlander was at his best despite not pitching in the Majors since August 28 due to injury. JV worked five full innings, did not allow a hit, walked just one, plunked Ramón Laureano, and struck out nine hitters. Not only did he improve his record to 17-3 but he also lowered his ERA to 1.79.
With this solid performance, Verlander evaporated the uncertainty around him about pitching beyond September. At this point, he remains the strongest candidate for the American League Cy Young award. Over his three most recent starts, JV has 14 innings pitched, no runs, three hits, two walks, and 25 strikeouts.
Phil Maton (2 innings), Ryne Stanek, and Bryan Abreu combined to throw four scoreless innings with seven punchouts to reach the remarkable victory.
José Urquidy will take the ball for Houston to start Saturday’s game for an interesting matchup against lefty Cole Irvin during the second game of the series.