The Houston Astros are one win away from another World Series berth after beating the Boston Red Sox 9-1 in Game 5 on Wednesday.
The team showed talent and heart in turning the series around: down 2-1, they scored 18 runs in Games 4 and 5 to take the lead.
Now, they will play in Houston, and they are one win away from sealing their ticket to their third World Series in the last five seasons.
Now, we know the usual contributors have been stellar: Jose Altuve has two home runs in the American League Championship Series, Carlos Correa gave his side the win in Game 1 with a solo blast, and Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel have been hitting and producing, too.
But here are three unsung heroes in the Astros’ latest surge.
3. Cristian Javier
As the team got healthier, Javier was relegated to bullpen duties.
He was always reliable and had a very good year even with the role variance, as he finished with a 3.55 ERA in 101.1 innings.
In the playoffs, however, he has evolved into a dangerous multi-inning weapon.
Against the Chicago White Sox in the Division Series, he pitched 2.2 scoreless frames and struck out six.
He has been equally impressive against the Red Sox, completing five innings over two appearances and allowing no runs while fanning seven.
Most importantly, Javier answered the call when he was needed the most: after Zack Greinke could only complete 1.1 innings in Game 4, he tossed three scoreless frames to keep the team in the game in the win.
2. Yordan Alvarez
Everybody talks about Altuve, Correa, and Alex Bregman.
And deservedly so, since they are all top sluggers.
But somehow, Yordan Alvarez is often overlooked.
Alvarez is perhaps the Astros’ top power threat, and he proved it this season with 33 homers and 104 RBI.
In the postseason, he has been even better.
He is 8-for-19 against Boston in the ALCS, with a home run, five runs, and five RBI.
His slash line is up to .421/.455/.632 with a phenomenal 1.086 OPS.
Throughout his career, left-handed hitters have slashed just .202/.255/.271 off Chris Sale. With a homer and a double off him last night, Yordan Alvarez made it look quite easy. #Astros #postseason (via @MLB) pic.twitter.com/fVI4p0deQ8
— Matt Musico (@mmusico8) October 21, 2021
As long as Alvarez is healthy, he should get recognition too, because he is every bit as good as his slugging teammates and is a big reason why Houston turned the series around.
1. Framber Valdez
Valdez wasn’t at his best during his Game 1 appearance, allowing three runs (two earned) but nine baserunners in 2.2 innings.
His team hung on to win anyway, thankfully for Astros fans.
His breakthrough performance, however, came in Game 5 on Wednesday.
Valdez, using his trademark sinker and his excellent curveball, froze the Red Sox for eight frames, allowing a single run on three hits and a walk, striking out five foes.
Framber Valdez, Knee Buckling 80mph Curveball. 🦵 pic.twitter.com/aNxcl9dWzb
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 20, 2021
After the Astros bullpen was taxed by Tuesday’s performance (7.2 scoreless innings), he provided length and effectiveness to put his team in position to win the series.
It was a fantastic performance, one that fans will remember for a long time regardless the outcome of the series.