HOUSTON -- No starting pitcher in baseball throws a sinker like Luis Castillo's. The ball starts on one side of the plate and ends up on the other, moving nearly a foot and a half horizontally on average, an optical illusion of a pitch if executed correctly, which the 73rd of his American League Division Series starts Thursday unquestionably was. The only problem: Yordan Alvarez, the beyond-talented Houston Astros slugger, stood at the plate ready to prove the pitch's fallibility.

The sinker left Castillo's hand at 98 mph, wound up 4 inches off an outside corner, and landed 371 feet away -- another day, another playoff game, another deficit-erasing, go-ahead home run by Alvarez, another victory for the Astros, this one 4-2 over the Seattle Mariners to give Houston a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five ALDS.

In Game 1, Alvarez hit a three-run walk-off home run in the ninth inning to bring the Astros back from behind. And in Game 2, they were trailing again, down 2-1, before Alvarez drove Castillo's sinker onto Minute Maid Park's short porch in left field sent the crowd of 41,774 into a tizzy, leading to a win that leaves them just one victory away from their sixth straight AL Championship Series.

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Never had a player hit more than one go-ahead homer in the sixth inning or later of a postseason game while trailing. Alvarez did it twice in two games.


The series now shifts to T-Mobile Park for a Saturday afternoon game 3. Just one more win for the Astros and they return home.

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