Thats what you get: Astros Alex Bregman breaks out with grand slam in World Series Game 4 win
What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale describes the mood in the Astros locker room after defeating the Nationals in Game 4, tying the series at 2-2.
WASHINGTON – Alex Bregman’s fire burns internally right now, or so it seems.
There is a World Series championship to be won, and Bregman performed grimly in its first three games and so he’s chosen his words carefully, his energy contained, his focus unwavering.
His Houston Astros teammates tell a different story – that of a player seething from the disrespect of an intentional walk in Game 3 that, even more maddening, actually worked against a player that may well win the American League’s Most Valuable Player award.
And so when he came to bat in the seventh inning of Saturday night’s Game 4 at Nationals Park, and the Houston Astros’ three-run lead endangered by a wobbly bullpen, the sting of that diss and his own sick performance framed his bases-loaded at-bat against reliever Fernando Rodney.
“It’s just one of those moments where you think that he’s going to go off,” says outfielder Josh Reddick. “Because he’d probably be the most mad guy that would get in that situation to get intentionally walked to him.
“Really, you’re walking that guy to get to me? Hell with that. I think he’s the guy who really lives for those moments.”
And the Washington Nationals may perish for daring to tick him off.
Bregman erased the shame of the first three games with one gorgeous swing, staying on a Rodney two-seam fastball and sending the ball high into the seats down the left field line. His ninth career postseason home run sailed right over the head of one giddy Astros fan and into a sea of glum fans clad in red, head to toe.
If ever there was a series-shifting moment, this was it. And if ever there was a guy to deliver it, well…
“He’s born for this, born for these big moments,” shortstop Carlos Correa said of Bregman, who also delivered the most important hit of the Astros’ seven-game triumph in the 2017 Series, a 10th-inning, Game 5 walk-off single.
“You can contain him for a couple games, but not for a whole series. The man is unbelievable. He’s one of the best hitters in the game, and you guys saw it tonight.”
Especially when an opponent dares awaken a sleeping giant.
In Friday’s Game 3, the Astros were nursing a 4-1 lead when Rodney encountered Michael Brantley with first base open. At that point, Bregman was in a 4-for-29 rut dating to the American League Championship Series, and 1 for 11 in this Series.
So Rodney walked Brantley, loading the bases – and retired Bregman on a grounder to short.
A lineout in the ninth pushed his valley to 4 for 31 and 1 for 13. It also set off an alarm among his teammates.
“That walk they issued to Michael to pitch to him, that set him on fire,” says Correa. “You do that to A-Breg, he’s going to come back the next day and be A-Breg.
“After that walk I said, ‘Oh no, you don’t do that to him.’”
It didn’t take long for Bregman to find his playoff level.
He drove in the Astros’ first run with an RBI single off Nationals starter Patrick Corbin, which preceded a Yuli Gurriel infield single that gave Houston a 2-0 lead.
It was 4-1 into the seventh, but bad vibes were afoot for the Astros. Manager A.J. Hinch’s decision to yank starter Jose Urquidy after five shutout innings looked shaky after reliever Josh James walked a pair and gave up a run in the seventh, forcing top reliever Will Harris to bail him out.
The Nationals returned the favor in the seventh, when Tanner Rainey walked a pair of batters and was replaced by Rodney, who this time had no choice but face Bregman with the bases loaded. Rodney failed to sneak his 0-1 fastball by Bregman, who clubbed it to left.
He watched it sail as he walked down the line, more to ascertain whether it would stay fair than revel in his moment. At the dugout rail, aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole erupted as the ball cleared the fence.
Bregman? He turned and jogged around the bases, eventually bashing arms with teammates at home plate but not at all circling the bases in a manner that might leap out in a Ken Burns documentary decades from now.
Afterward, he talked of feeling “pretty fired up” about the grand slam, moreso for helping the team win than avenging any indignities. Just passing the torch, he said. Just “fortunate enough to put a good swing on it,” he insisted.
The low tones and stoic expression were 180 degrees from his wink-and-a-smirk persona he so often exudes, eyes bright, knowing a secret he may or may not let you in on.
On this night, he grinned a bit when asked if he agreed with Correa’s assessment the Astros – and their third baseman – had their swagger back.
“I just think we’re better when we have fun, and we had fun the last two days. And winning is fun and playing well is fun,” he said, stopping just shy of insisting they’re taking it one game at a time.
“I guarantee you deep down in his mind, he was mad that they did that to him,” says Reddick. “So maybe it was carried over to tonight.
“Who knows with him. I wish that I could run through his brain in a day. There’s all kinds of crazy things that come out.”
Says Correa: “That’s what you get. Grand slam. Cool.”