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Yuli Gurriel turns in throwback performance in ALDS Game 1

The 38-year-old first Houston Astros baseman struggled at the plate for much of the season, with his .647 OPS standing as a career low. Gurriel hit just eight homers in 2022, and his .360 slugging also marked the worst clip of his career. But Gurriel was able to turn the tide on Tuesday.

The Houston stalwart delivered in a major way in Game 1 as the Astros looked to climb out of a 4-0 early deficit against the Seattle Mariners. Gurriel tallied three hits on the afternoon, adding a run scored and an RBI on a home run in the 4th inning. The Astros’ offense didn’t quite explode until the late innings on Tuesday, but Gurriel’s strong at-bats helped keep Houston in the game.

Fans shouldn’t be totally surprised by Gurriel’s effort on Tuesday given his previous playoff exploits. Gurriel has made a reputation for himself in Houston as a clutch postseason performer, with his most notable contribution coming in the 2017 World Series. Gurriel bashed a pair of homers in the series as the Astros captured their first and only World Series title, and Gurriel was similarly impressive in against the Red Sox in the 2021 ALCS. When the lights are brightest, Gurriel appears more than comfortable. 

“It’s a little bit additional motivation [in the playoffs],” Gurriel told the media after Game 1. “The fans push you a little bit more, your team pushes you a little more. I think that helps me out.” 

Gurriel’s fourth-inning home run closed the gap to 6-3, but it was Gurriel’s countryman Yordan Alvarez who launched the biggest drive of the night five innings later. The Cuban slugger bashed a ball 438 feet en route to a walk-off home run in the 9th inning, giving Houston an 8-7 victory in Game 1 of the ALDS. Gurriel discussed his reaction to Alvarez’s clutch homer postgame, noting “when Yordan hits the ball, he does damage.”

Alvarez firmly stands as Houston’s best hitter, and he should be in the heart of the Astros’ order for much of the next decade. Time isn’t on Gurriel’s side to such a degree. But if Tuesday night is any indication, the veteran first baseman is ready for at least one more productive postseason.  


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