Alex Bregman carried his bat to first base — and some baseball traditionalists lost their minds.
Alex Bregman is drawing plenty of MVP love from Astros fans. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve are the heart of a historic run. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Justin Verlander always wants the ball when the Astros are most desperate for a win.
Astros pitchers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole seemed to be waging a strikeout competition this season. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Justin Verlander is still every bit the dominant ace many wondered if he could still be in Detroit.
Robinson Chirinos delivered the biggest hit for all for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Robinson Chirinos' bat has proven to be very valuable for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Catcher Robinson Chirinos is fitting right in with the big game Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa knows big swings. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Game 6 ends with Alex Bregman apologizing for the swagger that’s helped make him one of the most beloved players in baseball. The apology is clearly heartfelt. For Bregman tells several Washington Nationals players sorry during the middle of a game that could have decided the World Series.
Whether it’s necessary is another matter. Which side of the debate you fall on probably depends on whether you think baseball can be fun or it needs to confirm to the unwritten rules of the game that have steadied (or hindered it) for generations.
Welcome to the Bizarro World Series, where up is down, the home team loses every game (so far) and one of the world’s most exciting athletes feels compelled to tone himself down.
“I just let my emotions get the best of me,” Bregman says rather somberly, standing against the back wall of the Houston Astros clubhouse after the Nationals’ Game 7 forcing 7-2 win. “It’s not how I was raised to play the game.
“I just let my emotions get the best of me. And I’m sorry for doing that.”
Bregman’s big sin? Carrying his bad to first base like a baton he’s handing off in a relay race after absolutely crushing another postseason home run against one of the game’s best pitchers. Next, Bregman will feel compelled to say sorry for smiling too much.
I have a 13-year-old son who plays third base and loves Bregman and the idea that Alex Bregman is setting any kind of bad example is laughable. If you hit a home run in the World Series, you should be able to celebrate it however you want. Bregman’s bat carry isn’t offensive, it’s entertaining. It is amazing how many people forget that sports are supposed to be fun.
Some of the Nationals get offended — and Juan Soto, another of the game’s best and most exciting young stars, is within his rights to mimic troll Bregman by carrying his own bat to first base when he homers in the fifth inning. That is fun and entertaining, too.
“I saw that, what Bregman did in the first inning,” Soto says on the MLB Network’s on-field set. “I was like ‘that looks pretty cool. I wanna do that.’ ”
You know what? It was pretty cool. And just the kind of showmanship that Major League Baseball could use. This is turning into an epically entertaining World Series despite the fact that few of the games have been particularly close and there not being any all-time classic games like that wild 13-12 Game 5 in the 2017 World Series.
This is what happens when a World Series reaches Game 7, the most compelling stage in all of sports.
“You’ve got to leave it all on the field,” Astros shortstop Carlos Correa says. “Whatever you’ve got, leave it on the field. Last game of the season.
“You either go home a champion, or you go home a loser.”
Game 7 is where baseball legends are made. Anthony Rendon, the Houston kid turned Rice star and National League MVP candidate, has a game for the ages in Game 6. Playing in a stadium about 10 minutes from where he went to high school, Rendon drives in five of the Nats’ seven runs, hits a massive home run and forces Astros starter Justin Verlander to throw 21 pitches to him in three brilliant at bats.
But Rendon only goes down in baseball history if the Nationals win Game 7.
One Game for a Championship
As the night sets on Game 6, veteran Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos’ son David sits by his dad’s locker, playing a handheld video game, in an otherwise deserted room. David Chirinos is a regular presence around the Astros and he patiently waits for his father, knowing that dad is not just steeling himself for another game.
You do not think 35-year-old Robinson Chirinos, who worked so long to even get to the Big Leagues and only got to a team as good as these Astros this season, will be ready to grab a Game 7 opportunity?
Yes, these 107 win Astros are going for a dynasty on Wednesday night, trying to win their second championship in three seasons. But the roster is still sprinkled with players desperately attempting to win their first ring, knowing Wednesday night could be the best chance they ever have at it.
Guys like Chirinos and Zack Greinke, who will start Game 7, and Gerrit Cole, who could pitch in relief on two days rest (though A.J. Hinch is such a protective players manager that is also easy to imagine him not putting Cole in that type of scenario). Guys like reliever Joe Smith, pitching in his first World Series in his 13th year in the Majors.
Game 7 is all about grabbing the moment.
“You either go home a champion, or you go home a loser.” — Carlos Correa
It is almost fitting that Greinke, the would be third ace whose acquisition pushed Astros mania to new heights this season, gets the ball Wednesday night.
“We all have a lot of faith in him,” Astros second baseman Jose Altuve says. “We’re going to do everything we can behind him. We’re going to hit and we’re going to win the game.”
This World Series has turned into a game of home sweet no! The home team has lost every game of — and the bizarre trend will have to change for the Astros to be dancing in champagne.
Astros fans come expecting a coronation in Game 6 — and screaming for it. Minute Maid Park reaches another level of loudness in the first few innings. The press seats in center field actually shake when Bregman launches that home run to left to give the Astros a 2-1 lead.
The party’s never been this intense — and all 43,000-plus orange-clad fans in the stadium are feeling the championship moment.
Still, these Nationals fight back. Verlander gives up three runs and only strikes out three in five innings that have to qualify as a World Series disappointment. Did baseball’s Tom Brady finally run out of gas on the sport’s biggest stage?
Hinch says yes. Verlander himself makes no excuses. There is little time for reflection with Game 7 looming. There should be no time for making baseball less fun. Yet, there is Alex Bregman in the clubhouse, apologizing again for a thrilling moment.
“I deserved it,” Bregman says of Soto’s copycat carry-the-bat celebration which actually is more of a homage than mocking. “My fault. I apologize for that.”
Something is wrong with baseball if Alex Bregman feels the need to say sorry on a night when he becomes the youngest player in the American League to hit three home runs in a single World Series since Mickey Mantle. The 25-year-old Bregman is everything his peers, and those former players ripping him on Twitter, should be celebrating about the game.
What does it say about baseball that Alex Bregman gives a more heartfelt apology about enjoying a home run than Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman does for yelling at a group of female reporters about Roberto Osuna? Brergman does not need to be saying sorry for bringing joy to the game and consistently doing everything right off the field.
Let’s hope there are no sorrys and plenty of emotion in Game 7. And at least one epic celebration that breaks at least a half dozen dumb unwritten rules. Minimum.