Culture / Sporting Life

Astros Playoff Prep — Alex Bregman Feeds His Baby Son, Jeremy Peña Plays 2K and Jim Crane Makes a Team Store Drop In

An Unprecedented Playoff Bye and Pause Gives the Astros a Chance to Reenergize

BY // 10.11.22

While the Seattle Mariners pulled off their epic comeback in Toronto, turning the Blue Jays’ rocking indoor stadium into a mausoleum, Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman fed his 2-month-old son. Bregman followed the happenings in the game as best as he could, but Knox Samuel was his first priority.

Meanwhile, Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña  wasn’t monitoring the baseball game at all. He played NBA 2K with his buddies, largely in playground mode.

For his part, Astros reliever Ryne Stanek went to the Houston Zoo with his wife Jessica and 1-year-old daughter Joelle.

This is how the Astros spent part of their unprecedented pre-playoffs break as one of the first Major League Baseball teams that earned a first round bye under the sport’s expanded playoffs. The Astros recharged in their own ways, knowing that their time would start Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.

“It does kind of feel a little bit spring-ish,” Stanek says of the break. “You come in, you do your work, you don’t kind of linger on the field all day. It’s not the usual time where you’re here, spending 10, 12 hours at the field per day.

“You’re getting in, you’re getting your work in. . . The routine is a little bit more in the ‘Hey, come in, get your work done.’ Be a pro. Do your work. And don’t like crush yourself. Be ready to go.”

Astros owner Jim Crane certainly seems ready for the playoffs to start. Crane dropped into the Team Store at Minute Maid unannounced on Monday afternoon, surprising the few dozen fans shopping during his stop in. Crane thanked some of the fans for supporting the team and several thanked him right back.

While the Astros waited for their own playoff opener to arrive, the 101 win New York Mets, the 93 win St. Louis Cardinals, the 92 win Toronto Blue Jays and the 86 win Tampa Bay Rays all got bounced from the postseason. Eliminated in a matter of days.

This best-of-five divisional series with the Mariners will not be that quick or sudden. But an Astros franchise that has not lost a home game in this round since 2015 knows that its sixth straight 2-0 straight to a postseason is essential.

“They’re really good,” Bregman says of the Mariners more than once.

“I mean I’ve thought about this moment since I was, what, eight years old. It’s a dream come true.” — Jeremy Peña

The Houston Astros defeated the Seattle Mariners 3-0 behind home runs by Yordan Alvarez and Jeremy Pena at Minute Maid Park
Jeremy Pena is showing poise beyond his years in his first season with the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

For the 24-year-old Peña , who spent the 2021 playoffs on the Astros taxi squad, getting to watch it all up close but never swinging a bat or making a play in the field, this afternoon’s first pitch will be a long awaited milestone.

“I mean I’ve thought about this moment since I was, what, eight years old,” Peña says. “It’s a dream come true.”

Which didn’t mean this rookie still wasn’t cool and relaxed enough to spend his Saturday night playing video games with his buddies. In contrast, Bregman’s night consisted of a little baseball — and some baby duty.

“I was watching off and on,” Bregman says of the Mariners’ rally from that 8-1 deficit — and a one percent win expectancy — to eliminate Toronto. “And mixing in feeding my son. I caught a lot of it.”

This pause before the playoffs for baseball’s best teams is something new. But the World Series expectations around these Astros is not. Neither is starting a Houston October with Justin Verlander on the mound. Even if the ageless ace will be making his first playoff start since losing Game 6 of the 2019 World Series to the Washington Nationals.

“Just every time he takes the mound he gives you not only a chance to win with his performance but just a feeling of a chance to win,” Bregman says of Verlander. “There’s an aura about him whenever he’s locked in on game day.

“Everybody else in here feels it. And feels like they need to raise their game to the next level.”

It’s another playoff October in Houston. After a little wait.

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