Yordan goes for the MVP at the point of cannon shots

HOUSTON — For all those who were ready to give the AL MVP award to Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, well, the objects in Judge’s rearview mirror may be closer than you think. It seems. And when that object is a towering 6-foot-5 slugger named Yordan Alvarez, well, he’s probably worth keeping an eye on.

The Cuban has fully entered the race for the AL MVP with a torrid month of June to which he added a couple of home runs on Wednesday afternoon during the Astros win 5-3 over the Mets, giving him three homers in a two-game sweep of New York.

Álvarez will now take his show of power to the Big Apple starting this Thursday for a four-game series against Judge and the Yankees.

“I think that when a player goes to play in New York, it’s always exciting because of the history of that team and the stadium,” Álvarez said. “We know they’re a great team, so we’re just going to go out there and compete and try to win.”

Alvarez and Judge make a fantastic subplot for what will be a matchup between the AL’s top two teams, two ninths that have met three times in the postseason since 2015, with the Astros eliminating the Yankees each time. Álvarez has thundered at Yankee Stadium throughout his career, hitting .400/.438/.933 in seven regular-season games in the Bronx with five home runs and nine RBIs.

The Astros swept the Mets in two games at Minute Maid Park in the first stop of what will be a nine-game stretch against the Mets and Yankees. Houston scored four runs in the first inning against New York starter Carlos Carrasco on Alex Bregman’s two-run homer and a solo shot to right field courtesy of Alvarez, his 20th homer of the season.

“I think he’s one of the best and every time you don’t put the pitch where you want it, it’s going to hurt you,” Carrasco said. “It’s what he went through there during that shift.”

Alvarez’s first home run traveled 408 feet and his second 412, according to Statcast. He now has 14 home runs this year that have traveled at least 400 feet. That number is second only to Atlanta’s Austin Riley (16) and Judge (15) in the major leagues. He is the eighth player in Major League history to hit 81 home runs in his first 294 MLB games.

“Every time he comes to bat we feel like he’s going to laser left field or laser right field or hit a home run up center,” Bregman continued. “He’s hitting the ball all over the place and it’s a pretty special thing to see.”

Alvarez, who signed a six-year, $115 million contract extension on June 6, is hitting .452/.518/.904 (1,422 OPS) with nine home runs and 26 RBIs in 20 games since May 29. . Going into Wednesday’s game, he was second in the majors in average exit velocity (95.9 mph), just behind the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton (96.0) and ahead of Judge (95.7).

“He’s making some tremendous swings,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “If exit velocity means anything, he’s at the top of the world in that department. And some of them are coming out over the fence.”

Judge hit a pair of home runs Wednesday against the Rays and closed out the day hitting .302/.379/.663 with a major league-leading 27 homers and 52 RBIs. For his part, Álvarez leads the Major Leagues with an OPS of 1.064 and has an offensive line of .315 / .406 / .648, in addition to 21 homers and 51 RBIs in 61 games.

“I think they’ve both had incredible seasons,” Bregman said. “Right now my job is just to get on base in front of Yordan. I try to get to first because I feel like every time I do, he hits a home run.”

The Astros are convinced they averted a catastrophe when Alvarez missed Sunday’s game alone after exiting Saturday’s game with a hand injury. He returned to the lineup on Tuesday and has only solidified his status as one of the game’s great sluggers.

“That injury could have been devastating for him,” Baker said. “I wanted to give him another day off like I do with guys when they come back from injuries, but he told me he was ready, and apparently he was.”

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Yordan goes for the MVP at the point of cannon shots