Postseason diary: Yordan Álvarez’s first show

On October 15, 1988, almost 34 years ago, Dodgers Stadium was packed with 55,983 souls watching the first game of the World Series between the ninth Angelina and the Oakland Athletics. It seemed like a calm duel for the hosts, who came out ahead from the very opening episode, but in the third chapter the Cuban José Canseco made them drink a bitter drink with a violent swing.

The prodigious Antillean outfielder, who had just achieved the first season of 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in the history of the Majors, dispatched a long grand slam through the middle forest and silenced the stands. With that hit, Canseco placed his name on an exclusive list of Cubans with at least four trailers in a postseason game, something that had previously only been achieved by Zoilo Versalles (1965), Mike Cuéllar (1970) and Tany Pérez (1975). .

However, what is most remembered from that fall day was Kirk Gibson’s decisive two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth, to turn the scoreboard and decree the victory for the Dodgers. Dressed as a ruthless pinch hitter, the bruised left-handed hitter limped off the bench and decided the match with a homer off All-Star reliever Dennis Eckersley.

That hit took on even more relevance as it was the first walk off in MLB postseason history with a team down on the scoreboard and just one out from losing. As we already know, that outcome gave a crucial boost to the Dodgers, who ended up winning their last World Series of the 20th century.

Later, Chavez Ravine’s ninth took 32 years to repeat the crown, but more time passed until another player repeated Kirk Gibson’s feat, or until another Cuban drove in four runs in a postseason game. The curious thing is that this new record man was not even born in 1988.


After six in the afternoon on Tuesday, October 11, the Minute Maid Park in Houston was about to burst at the close of the first duel of the Division Series between the Astros and the Mariners. In the final of the ninth and two outs on the board, the hosts managed to tie the base and the team’s best hitter in the 2022 campaign entered the offensive rectangle.

Yordan Álvarez (Las Tunas, 1997) arrived imposing at the home plate to face reliever Paul Sewald, who was about to deal the first blow to the reigning American League champions. However, in an unexpected move, Seattle manager Scott Servais came out of the cave and beckoned to the bullpen to bring in their rotation leader, 2021 Cy Young-winning left-hander Robbie Ray.

Ray had only relieved four games in his nine-season major league career and his last outing from the bullpen was on Sept. 1, 2020, when he was with the Blue Jays. We can then understand his appearance this Tuesday as an emergency measure by the Mariners’ mentor, who knows perfectly well what the Cubans are capable of.

Scottt Servais was a catcher for the United States collegiate teams in the 1980s, when he faced the stellar Cuban teams of the time several times in bilateral caps, the 1986 World Cup and the 1987 Intercontinental Cup. Kindelán, Linares, Pacheco, Gurriel, Casanova and company are not easily forgotten, so the now Seattle helmsman decided to act cautiously against Yordan, worthy heir to the traditional Antillean power.

But the play could not have gone worse. The player from Las Tunas, with his compact swing, hooked a sinker (93.2 miles) from the left-hander and sent it flying into the stands of right field (438 feet) with an exit velocity of 116.7 miles, the third strongest home run in the history of the postseason since Statcast began tracking this data in 2015. Only Giancarlo Stanton (118.3 mph in 2020 and 117.4 mph in 2018) had homered harder in play off.

Yordan, who had already driven in the first two for Houston in the third inning, turned the scoreboard around and unleashed the madness at Minute Maid Park, where 41,125 fans – including his family and Yulieski Gurriel’s – witnessed one of the most memorable nights for a Cuban player in postseason history.

To get an idea, no player from the Island had driven in five runs in a clash at this stage, and the last to get four RBIs in these duels was José Canseco, on October 15, 1988, when the player from Las Tunas was not born. If we go to the history of the Astros in play offOnly four players had driven in five runs in a game: Carlos Beltrán (2004), Morgan Ensberg (2005), Alex Bregman (2019), and Carlos Correa (2020).

As if that were not enough, Álvarez also became the first man to win a walk off homer in the postseason with his team trailing by multiple runs, and the second – after Kirk Gibson in 1988 – with a hit of these characteristics when his team was already losing one out to end the game.

Yordan was not the only Cuban partying this Tuesday. Yulieski Gurriel also contributed to the cause of the Astros with three hits, one of them a solo homer in the fourth inning. The Sancti Spiritus, postseason leader in hits (73) among the Antillean navy, equaled Bert Campaneris and Randy Arozarena as the only players on the Island with five games of at least three rockets in duels of play off.

The most impressive thing about Gurriel is that all this production has come in the final stretch of his career, after leaving Cuba at the age of 32. In the history of the Major League postseason, the West Indian is the second with the most games of at least three hits after turning 33 years old, only surpassed by Kenny Lofton (six).

By the way, this Tuesday Gurriel and Yordan became the first pair of Cuban players to connect three hits and a home run in the same game. play off.

This show was not the only highlight for the Island on the first day of the Divisional Series. At Atlanta’s Truist Park, Cuban-American Nick Castellanos was the main scourge for the reigning Major League champions, hitting three rockets and driving in the same number of runs in Philadelphia’s 7-6 victory.

Castellanos drove in the first score of the game with a single to right in the opening inning, off star left-hander Max Fried. In the third episode he came back with a double and went through the register, while in the fourth he fired another single that drove in two. As if that weren’t enough, he gave away a spectacular catch in right field in the ninth inning as the Braves tried to put together an electric comeback.

If prizes were given per game, Castellanos would have been the Most Valuable Player of this duel without a doubt. His contribution, in addition to being decisive, was historic, since only nine Phillies players had achieved three hits and three RBIs in a postseason clash.

The first to do so was Bake McBride in 1980, followed by Gary Matthews (1983), Milt Thompson and Lenny Dykstra in 1993, Shane Victorino, Pat Burrell, Brett Myers and Ryan Howard in 2008, and Jayson Werth in 2009. .

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