Alex Bregman waiting with a bat in hand is one of the most ominous sights an Astros opponent can see. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Just because the Astros dugout stare didn't work out exactly as planned, didn't mean it wasn't entertaining. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Alex Bregman ended the Oakland A's hopes with a three-run bomb. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Ring night always brings out the best in Houston Astros fans. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
George Springer makes the Astros' world a much more fun, interesting place. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Carlos Correa helps power one of the deepest lineups in the game. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Astros ace Gerrit Cole has the big game stare down. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Astros catcher Martin Maldonado is making a difference. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Alex Bregman knows the hustle. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Alex Bregman is having the time of his life with the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman always seems to rise to the big-game moment. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Jose Altuve powers the Houston Astros in so many ways. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Even George Springer knows that it all comes down to Jose Altuve with these Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Gerrit Cole has been a strikeout revelation for the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Gerrit Cole's high fastballs can be devastating to right-handed hitters. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve know how to have fun — and how to win. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Houston Astros' third baseman Alex Bregman's uniform bore the dirt of his supreme defensive efforts. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch made sure to examine his new ring. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman seems to relish the challenge of facing superstar pitchers. (Photo by F. Carter Smith).
Astros third baseman Alex Bregman is an All-Star and a postseason difference maker. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
The stares are nice. The MVP love is better. For there is Alex Bregman getting serenaded with “MVP! MVP! M-V-P!” from a mammoth, enlivened crowd at Minute Maid Park.
It sounds almost strange at first.
After all, usually it’s the guy batting behind Bregman on this night (Jose Altuve) who receives such three-letter adoration. But Alexander David Bregman is turning the usual upside down and shaking it until all its lunch money comes out in his third Major League season.
Bregman isn’t just holding nightly viral staring contests. He’s threatening to make himself one of the most well-known players in baseball.
It’s the bigger the game, the better the Bregman. And regular season games do not get much more larger than late August with the pesky gnat of an upstart challenger in your town, still legitimately dreaming of stealing your division crown.
The Oakland A’s come into Houston with such hopes and dreams. Then, Bregman goes boom.
On this night, it’s a double off the manual scoreboard and a three-run blast into the right center field bleachers. Well, that and two singles (one he’s thrown out on at second when he tries to hustle into even more). It gives Bregman the fourth four hit game of his young (just 332 games old) Major League career.
More importantly, it leaves the A’s with just about the worst headache ever. There are Kardashians who’ve felt better after an all nighter than these A’s do after Houston 11, Oakland 4.
Statement delivered. Signed by one baseball gym rat named Alex Bregman.
“When we’re healthy, we’re the best team in baseball,” Bregman says afterwards, standing against a wall in the Astros clubhouse. “And we’re starting to get healthy.”
Bregman’s wearing a black sweatshirt, zipped up to the very top, and a backwards black Bleacher Report hat. He looks like he’s ready to go work out. But to the A’s, he might as well be dressed as an executioner.
“I think he likes the moment,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch says of Bregman. “That’s an understatement.”
This night is one of those moments.
With 43,171 fans packed into the ballpark on a Monday thanks to another replica ring night (the 12th sellout of the season), the Astros show everyone who still reigns supreme in the American League West. Bregman and buds hit Oakland with not one, but two, absolute offensive explosions.
Five runs in the third. Six runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Bregman gets his “MVP! M-V-P!” love in the middle of that eighth inning. Another moment. Bregman goes boom.
“When the big moment comes, his heart rate slows down,” Hinch says. “And he gets a good pitch to hit.”
Yes, the most excitable guy in Minute Maid (or any ballpark for that matter), the guy whose #DugoutStareChallenge is officially way beyond a thing, actually calms down in the most pressurized situations. At least, long enough to get a stadium screaming “MVP!”
Bregman is not really going to add an American League MVP Award to his All-Star Game MVP. Not with what J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts have done in Boston. Or with what Jose Ramirez is threatening to do in Cleveland.
Alex Bregman as AL MVP would be a bigger upset than Beto toppling Ted Cruz. But Bregman can get himself into the conversations and set the stage for a future MVP run.
And what a difference that would be from how people used to look at Bregman just a few months ago. This is no underdog scrapper turned World Series warrior. This is one of the potentially dominant players in the entire game.
Flipping the Script — and The Stare
The A’s jump out to a quick 4-0 lead on this Monday, hitting two massive two-run bombs off Gerrit Cole, very arguably the Astros best pitcher. Oakland is clearly feeling it.
Then, the Astros show their power, the true depth of a lineup that can be the best in baseball when it’s humming right. Houston puts up six hits in the bottom of the third inning, turning that 4-0 deficit into a 5-4 lead. George Springer, Bregman and Altuve hit back-to-back-to-back scorching doubles.
A.J. Hinch’s team is pounding A’s starter Brett Anderson without hitting the ball out of the park.
It’s a clinic in relentlessness. It’s these Astros at their best.
Aluve and Company — and it’s really still Altuve and Company in many ways — just keep coming. You can knock these Astros down, but not out. Houston is now 6-0 since Altuve’s popped off the DL, swinging. Altuve adds two more hits Monday night, making him 9 for 24 since his return.
Later, Bregman will credit the crowd with helping his eighth-inning home run (which really never needed any help) clear the wall. His theory? Everybody behind home plate blew hard — pushing the blast over the fence.
That’s classic Bregman — funny and self deprecating at the same time. About the only thing that goes wrong for the Astros on this night is that the grand new post-home run dugout camera stare that Bregman promises in the pregame does not go quite as planned.
“It didn’t work out,” Bregman says. “We messed it up.”
“Tyler White screwed it up,” Astros pitcher Lance McCullers chimes in helpfully from across the room.
Yes, Tyler White was supposed to dance. White didn’t dance. But no matter.
Bregman goes boom. That’s your night. And in many ways, it’s increasingly the story of this Astros season.
“MVP! MVP! M-V-P!” for Bregman. There is a first time for everything. But this certainly won’t be the last.