Álvarez, Peña Power Astros to 2022 World Series Championship

The Maroon spoke with Astros left fielder Yordan Álvarez to help recap the 2022 World Series won by Houston.


Marcos Gonzalez

Sports Reporter Marcos Gonzalez (left) with Yordan Álvarez.

By Marcos Gonzalez

For the second time in six years, the Houston Astros are MLB World Series champions. Many of the big names who were on the 2017 World Series-winning squad were missing from this year’s run. In fact, only five players from the 2017 roster were around to enjoy this second victory. Two of the team’s youngest stars—rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña and left fielder Yordan Álvarez—had their fair share of big moments throughout the postseason. Álvarez made plenty of history during the American League Division Series (ALDS), while Peña became just the third rookie to earn World Series MVP honors. 

Álvarez made quite a bit of noise in the early rounds of the playoffs, smacking a walk-off three-run home run against Mariners starter-turned-leverage reliever Robbie Ray in Game 1 of the ALDS and a late go-ahead homer in Game 2. After the Astros advanced to the American League Championship Series (ALCS), I was able to catch up with Álvarez to discuss his Game 1 walk-off.  

“[Robbie Ray] is a very difficult pitcher to face, and facing him certainly wasn’t comfortable,” Álvarez told the Maroon in Spanish. “However, I felt it was my moment to do something great.”  

The moment wasn’t just great—it was historic. Álvarez became the first player ever to hit multiple go-ahead home runs in the sixth inning or later of a postseason game with his team trailing. He did so in back-to-back games. Álvarez finished the series with a .267/.353/.733 slash line.  

Peña also proved he belongs in the majors throughout the entire postseason. Though there were many key contributors during the Astros’ postseason run, none of the bats showed up as consistently as Peña, who came through with big hits any time they were needed. Peña earned the ALCS and World Series MVP honors, not only due to his timely hitting, but also because of his dazzling defense.   

While Peña’s World Series got off to a solid, yet unspectacular, start, his MVP bid truly started to gain traction in Game 5. Peña kicked off the scoring in Game 5 with an RBI single in the top of the first inning. The momentum faded quickly for Houston, though, as leadoff power threat Kyle Schwarber sent the first pitch from Justin Verlander into the right field seats, sending the Phillies faithful into delirium. The Astros’ bats were silenced until the fourth inning, when Peña hit a majestic two-run home run into left field, chasing Phillies pitcher Noah Syndergaard from the game. Álvarez tagged on an extra insurance run the eighth inning of the contest, which proved to be of monumental importance when the Phillies answered back to make it a 3-2 game. Ultimately, Game 5 was decided by that score. 

Peña’s consistency continued in Game 6. The rookie shortstop had two hits in four at bats in Game 6, with his second hit coming at a crucial time. With a runner on first base and one out, Peña stepped to the plate against Phillies ace Zach Wheeler and promptly lined a single to center field. The hit forced Phillies’ manager Rob Thompson to make a tough decision to pull his ace in favor of southpaw Jose Alvarado to face fellow lefty Álvarez. 

Álvarez is no stranger to succeeding in left-on-left matchups; he has a higher batting average against lefties than righties. His On-base Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS) of .963 is only slightly lower than his .980 OPS against righties—put simply, the platoon advantage rarely favors the pitcher when facing Álvarez. Álvarez noted that, prior to facing Alvarado, hitting coach Alex Cintrón and him decided to make a small adjustment in his swing. “He saw that I needed to lift my hands a bit more. I used that adjustment, and it worked out.” 

That mechanical change was not the only thing that changed about Alvarez’ approach to the critical at bat. Alvarez told me that he was sitting on one pitch from Alvarado—his sinker, which according to MLB’s pitch tracking data he throws over 63 percent of the time. “I knew he was going to throw me a sinker, which allowed me to be on time when the pitch came.” 

It is safe to say his approach paid off. After taking two breaking balls, Álvarez got the exact pitch he was looking for—a 99 MPH sinker, which he promptly sent over the batter’s eye in center field. The 450-foot moonshot was easily the biggest swing of the Cuban’s young career, putting his team up 4-1 with just three innings remaining in the contest. 

Nine outs later, celebration ensued in Houston. The bench stormed the field and fans gathered around as MLB commissioner Rob Manfred presented the Houston Astros with the 2022 World Series trophy. Though nearly every player on Houston’s roster had a case for World Series MVP, no player was more deserving than Peña. Combine Peña’s leap into stardom with the heroics of Álvarez, Framber Valdez, and the young pitchers in the Astros’ bullpen, and it should not come as a surprise to anyone why the Astros consistently make it to—and are once again the champions of—the biggest stage in baseball.