HOUSTON – Long established as a star at the plate, Yordan Alvarez has been showing flashes of brilliance on defense this season, too.
Alvarez threw out Hunter Dozier at the plate from just short of the warning track in left field to preserve a two-run, eighth-inning lead, then hit his 25th homer as the Houston Astros beat the Kansas City Royals 9-7 on Tuesday night.
The Astros also got homers from Jeremy Peña, Alex Bregman and Aledmys Díaz as they extended their winning streak to a major league-best eight games.
Houston trailed 4-3 entering the fifth inning before Peña homered off Zack Greinke (2-5) to tie it. Bregman’s two-run shot later in the fifth put the Astros ahead 6-4.
The eighth belonged to Alvarez.
Bryan Abreu’s bases-loaded walk of Michael A. Taylor got the Royals within two. Phil Maton took over and Nicky Lopez hit a deep flyball that Alvarez caught and fired on the fly to catcher Martin Maldonado, who tagged out Dozier for an inning-ending double play.
“When the ball was hit, I just focused and thought I’d have a chance at home if I made a pretty good throw," Alvarez said through a translator. “That was where my focus was, just to make a good, strong throw there.”
After playing primarily at designated hitter in his first three major league seasons, Alvarez has been splitting time between DH and left field this year.
“It all goes back to work," manager Dusty Baker said. “And he’s worked on it. He’s worked on his defense a lot."
With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Alvarez homered to left-center off Jackson Kowar to make it 9-6. Chants of “M-V-P” rained down on the slugger as he rounded the bases.
“It felt exciting that the fan base was calling for that," he said. “It definitely felt good.”
His 25 homers are tied with Philadelphia's Kyle Schwarber for second in the majors, four behind the Yankees' Aaron Judge.
Alvarez was asked if he enjoyed his big defensive play or his homer more.
“I think the thing that is the most fun is today is it's my mom’s birthday," he said. “At first, when I threw out the runner, I said: ‘Oh wow.’ Then I hit the home run and I said: ‘Oh wow, (what) a good gift (for her).'”
Luis Garcia (7-5) allowed eight hits and five runs in 6 1/3 innings for his fourth straight win. Rafael Montero allowed a run on a groundout in the ninth before striking out the next two batters for his sixth save.
Greinke tied a season high by allowing 10 hits with six runs in five innings in his first start against Houston since signing with the Royals in the offseason. The veteran spent 2 1/2 seasons with the Astros, going to the World Series in 2019 and last year.
“Stuff felt pretty sharp but I made a lot of mistakes and didn’t really make a lot of quality strikes," Greinke said. “I think ... they had 10 hits or something and at least like eight of them were mistakes."
The Astros played a video honoring Greinke’s time in Houston while he warmed up and capped it by playing John Anderson’s “Seminole Wind,” which was his warmup music. He received a warm ovation and waved to the crowd from the bullpen.
“Yeah, that was good," Greinke said. “The Diamondbacks decided to show them hitting some home runs off me and then did a tribute, so it was nicer to do it before the game. Kind of a nice way of doing it.”
MJ Melendez hit a solo homer off Garcia in the second and Bobby Witt Jr. connected off him for a two-run shot in the third. It was the third home run of the series for Melendez, who went deep twice in the series opener on Monday.
Díaz hit a two-run homer in the seventh off Kowar.
Royals: Witt left the game after fouling a ball off his hand in the ninth inning. Manager Mike Matheny said X-rays were negative but his hand was swollen after the game. ... LHP Daniel Lynch (left index finger blister) is scheduled to make his first rehabilitation start for Triple-A Omaha Wednesday.
Astros: RHP Lance McCullers Jr., who has been out all season with a forearm injury, threw another live batting practice session Tuesday. He threw about 30 pitches and Baker said he will do that a couple more times before moving to simulated games.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Baker tied Walter Alston for ninth all-time among managers with 2,040 career wins.
Houston’s Cristian Javier (6-3, 2.58 ERA), who has struck out 27 batters combined in his last two starts, opposes Brad Keller (3-9, 4.24) when the four-game series continues Wednesday night.
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