HOUSTON — When you’re in a slump, you’ll take any kind of hit you can get. That appeared to be the mindset of Astros designated hitter Yordan Alvarez when he snapped an 0-for-8 funk by putting down a perfectly placed bunt in the eighth inning of Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the A’s at Minute Maid Park.
The intimidating Alvarez, who bashed his way to 2019 American League Rookie of the Year honors before missing most of last year following knee surgery, executed a perfect bunt to lead off the eighth, rolling it down the third-base line to the bag for a single. It wasn’t as exciting or as exhilarating as one of the tape-measure homers he is prone to crushing, but sometimes less is more. It was the first time in his career he put a bunt into play.
“I thought it was great,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s been working on it. He’s a good bunter. He was struggling and we needed base runners. He hasn’t been swinging the bat very well these last few days and so a lot of times you break the ice, just get a hit, a chopper and a little single and that can get you going again. Nothing’s worse than counting the times when you’re not making contact and counting the times you’re making outs.”
Alvarez struck out in his final at-bat Thursday and was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Friday’s loss. He struck out in his first two plate appearances Saturday against Oakland starter Frankie Montas, giving him seven consecutive strikeouts. He ended the strikeout streak by flying out to left field in the sixth.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about his bunt single was that it came against A’s left-handed side-armer Jake Diekman, who threw a 91-mph four-seam fastball that Alvarez — a left-handed hitter — had no trouble squaring up and dropping down.
“Yeah, he got the bunt down, but was like, ‘Dang, off Diekman, that was tough,’” Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker said. “It was pretty cool to watch him get on base and get a knock and do it by laying down a bunt.”
After going 1-for-8 on Friday and Saturday, Alvarez is slashing .289/.317/.553 with two homers and eight RBIs and has started all nine games at designated hitter for the Astros. Any concerns about the double knee surgeries he had in August appear to be over as he’s looked strong running the bases and legging out extra-base hits.
And if Alvarez can keep opposing defenses honest by bunting on occasion, that’s another weapon to his game.
“That’s something he can do every now and then,” Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. “Obviously, it’s a good thing. You feel good and the kind of hitter he is, he can hit as many homers as he wants, but if you can get on base in that situation, it’s fine.”