HOUSTON -- Yordan Alvarez did what he had done twice before this postseason, drilling a game-altering home run that ultimately sent the Houston Astros to victory. But in all three instances, Alvarez delivered on the heels of a rookie shortstop coming through in the clutch.
Alvarez bashed a three-run home run to straightaway center field with one out in the sixth inning to support another strong effort from Framber Valdez as the Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 in Game 6 on Saturday to claim their second World Series title in six seasons.
Alvarez clubbed his homer off Phillies left-hander Jose Alvarado, who was summoned from the bullpen to face the left-handed-hitting Alvarez. Facing a 2-1 count, Alvarez drilled a 98.9-mph sinker 450 feet over the batting eye in center to score Jose Altuve and Jeremy Pena, whose single off Phillies starter Zack Wheeler facilitated the decisive pitching change.
Pena finished 2-for-4 and added World Series MVP honors to his American League Gold Glove and AL Championship Series MVP awards. When Alvarez hit key homers against the Seattle Mariners in Games 1 and 2 of the AL Division Series, Pena had reached ahead of him both times.
"Shoutout to my teammates. They took me in since Day 1," said Pena, who batted .400 in the World Series. "They gave me the confidence to go out and play my game. This is special."
Houston added an insurance run three batters later when Christian Vazquez greeted Phillies reliever Seranthony Dominguez with a single to left that scored Alex Bregman, who worked a walk off Alvarado following the Alvarez homer. Two of the three batters Alvarado faced scored.
Valdez (3-0) carried a shutout into the seventh inning while recording nine strikeouts in Game 2. He was equally effective in his third start against the Phillies in one month, allowing two hits and two walks while again posting nine strikeouts. He fanned five consecutive batters bridging the third and fourth innings and retired 10 consecutive batters entering the top of the sixth inning.
At that point, Valdez had matched zeroes with Wheeler, but Kyle Schwarber delivered the Phillies a 1-0 lead by driving a 2-2 sinker from Valdez out to right field for his sixth postseason homer.
Valdez responded by retiring Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper in order to complete his outing, and Alvarez took Valdez off the hook soon thereafter.
Wheeler (1-3) was exceptional before running into trouble in the sixth.
He had surrendered just three baserunners through five innings and faced only two batters over the minimum before plunking Martin Maldonado with a pitch to open the sixth. Pena added a single two batters later before Alvarado entered to face Alvarez and the tide immediately turned.
"I thought Wheels still had really good stuff. It wasn't about that," Phillies manager Rob Thomson said of the decision to pull Wheeler. "It was just I thought the matchup was better with Alvarado on Alvarez at that time.
"I'm sure he (Wheeler) was (surprised). Yeah, I'm sure he was. I mean, he still had his good stuff. I just thought that that was a key moment in the game and that was a momentum swing that I thought Alvarado had a chance to strike him out."
Houston right-handers Hector Neris, Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly held the lead with aplomb, with Neris and Abreu retiring the Phillies in order in the seventh and eighth and Pressly needing only seven pitches to notch his sixth save of the postseason.
After bashing five home runs in their 7-0 victory in Game 3, the Phillies amassed only three runs over the final three games of the series. Their silenced bats offered a reflection of the Astros' excellent pitching and the adroit handling of that staff by Houston manager Dusty Baker, whose 25-year managerial career was missing a World Series championship before Saturday.
"I tried to have faith and perseverance in knowing that with the right team and the right personnel and the right everything that this was going to happen," Baker said. "Had this happened years ago I might not even be here.
"Maybe it wasn't supposed to happen so that I can hopefully influence a few young men's lives and families and a number of people in the country and show them what perseverance and character can do for you in the long run."
--MoiseKapenda Bower, Field Level Media
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