Alex Bregman extended his bat in one hand and posed for a moment — or three — after upending the World Series with a grand slam.
Catcher Robinson Chirinos is fitting right in with the big game Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Will Harris is an underrated weapon out of the Astros bullpen. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman know how to celebrate, Astros style. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Fans add plenty to baseball. It's not the same without them. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Michael Brantley's low-key excellence makes him one of Jeff Luhnow's best signings. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve are the heart of a historic run. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Alex Bregman will bring passion to the shortened season. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Michael Brantley gives the Houston Astros another impact bat. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Gerrit Cole is a dominant force and free agent to be. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros ace Gerrit Cole is the most coveted free agent in all of baseball. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
Astros ace Gerrit Cole has the big game stare down. (Photo by F. Carter Smith.)
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Alex Bregman was cranky, ornery and frankly out of sorts. Carlos Correa could see it — and he knew what it meant. The Washington Nationals were in trouble. And they didn’t even know it.
Correa happens to be lockering next to his buddy in D.C. — and he’s seen the smoldering intensity building for days.
“Absolutely,” Correa says when asked if Bregman was pissed off. “And you know Bregman. When he gets mad or pissed off, he’s going to go off. That’s what you get — a towering grand slam.”
You also get one of the more memorable home run poses of recent time — Bregman holding his bat out with one extended hand like it’s a lightsaber as he stops and watches the baseball soar into the left field stands at a shellshocked Nationals Park. Then, after a moment or three, he simply drops the bat and lets it hit dirt with a thud. Like he’s Dave Chappelle leaving the stage or something.
And why not? This World Series has been completely flipped upside down.
When Bregman hits his slam, George Springer starts jumping up and down in joy even as he runs the bases two Astros ahead of Houston’s cleanup hitter. Springer knows how big it is to have Alex Bregman tattooing baseballs again. The Astros are suddenly rolling in October — and only two wins from their second World Series championship in three years.
“That’s the team we’ve seen here for years,” Astros super reliever Will Harris — the man who seemingly dances out of danger with a wink — tells PaperCity after the 8-1 Game 4 win. “We play with energy, we fly around. We play very solid defense. And our pitchers throw a lot of strikes. We fill up the zone.
“We’ve been really electric on the offensive side. It’s been fun.”
Yes, the Astros that Houston fans have fallen in love with (and been spoiled by) are back with a vengeance. Just time to make reservations for a dynasty.
The Nationals came home to host the first World Series games held in Washington D.C. since 1933, planning to win a title. Now, they stagger into Sunday night’s Game 5 having been knocked around by the Astros by a combined 12-2 margin the last two nights, just hoping to salvage one home game. And they’ll need to beat Gerrit Cole for the second time in six days to do it.
The Fyre Festival went better than this Washington D.C. World Series party that was 86 years in the making. The Astros have already guaranteed that this series will return to Houston and the Nationals are suddenly in real trouble as this 2-2 series now screams advantage Houston.
Nationals fans — many who paid $1500 and up for a seat — started staggering out of the ballpark in the seventh inning. That’s when Bregman went boom — and Nationals Park turned into the set of The Walking Dead. Well, except for the Astros fans — including a good 100 of them flown in by Jim Crane himself — who started chanting, “MVP! MVP! MVP!” as Bregman disappeared into the dugout to get some more love.
After taking the first two games in New York to seize control of the American League Championship Series, the Astros have done the same thing in D.C. with the World Series.
While the 2017 World Champion Astros rode a magic carpet ride of big moments, these 2019 Astros are at their best when pushed. Flying to the land of Donald Trump (the president will be at Game 5 Sunday night) after losing the first two games of the World Series at home, Jose Altuve and Co. had some mid-air revelations.
Namely that the sleepwalking needed to stop — and the dozing giant needed to rise.
“I don’t know,” Correa says. “Games 1 and 2. It almost felt like regular games. We didn’t have our swagger, our fire.
“… I don’t know, man. It was weird. We didn’t play good baseball. We’ve got to go out there and get hits and get hyped, get pumped. It’s the World Series. We’ve got to perform. So as a family we made a pact to get together and play like we can play. Like we’ve been playing all year long.”
That means having Alex Bregman in the middle of everything, too. The force who steadied the Astros through so many injuries this season has not been himself for large stretches of the playoffs. Bregman came into Saturday night 1 for 13 in the World Series.
He leaves it with five RBI in one night, the most for a third baseman in one game in the entire history of the Fall Classic.
“You can contain (Bregman) for a couple of games,” Correa says. “But not for a whole series.”
The Rookie and The Vet
Bregman is back — and all is right for the Astros. On this orange letter night in the nation’s capital, the Astros get the type of unexpected contributions that every championship team needs.
Rookie starter Jose Urquidy threw five innings of brilliant scoreless, two hit baseball in the World Series. In only his 11th Major League start ever. Many of the Astros veterans admitted afterward that they openly rooted for the 24-year-old from Mazatlan, Mexico who wears two chains when he pitches to get the sixth inning too (A.J. Hinch went to the bullpen that’s been so clutch for him instead).
“He was just fearless,” Astros reliever Brad Peacock says of the rookie. “His stuff was electric tonight — and he was so much fun to watch.”
The Fyre Festival went better than this Washington D.C. World Series party that was 86 years in the making.
Then, there is veteran Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos hitting his second World Series home run in two nights, proving that October is sometimes still about magic. And believing in your moment.
“A lot of people didn’t think I’d ever even make it to the Big Leagues,” Chirinos says, surrounded by a horde of TV cameras and reporters in the middle of the visitors clubhouse.
Chirinos toiled for years in the minors before ever getting a shot. Now, he has a real shot at winning the first championship of his career in his first season in Houston.
Bregman Goes Bonkers
Yet for all the unlikely feel-good stars of Game 4, and Will Harris’ continued high-wire artistry of pitching out of the trouble others have created (this time, Harris gets the Astros out of a bases loaded jam with one out in the sixth inning), Bregman going bonkers might be the most welcome sight of all.
Bregman sharply singles to left off a 93 MPH fastball from Patrick Corbin, the Nats’ $140 million pitcher, to open the Astros scoring in the first inning. He ends the scoring — and essentially the game — by launching a 92 MPH two-seam fastball from Washington reliever Fernando Rodney into the stratosphere.
So much for the struggles of Alex Bregman.
“It’s impossible to break him,” Hinch says of the star who plays with intensity of a career scraper.
Alex Bregman loves the big moment. Remember who finally won that epic Game 5 of the 2017 World Series? He plays with attitude and completely changes the Astros when he is going well.
Bregman’s home run trot on this Saturday night in a suddenly somber D.C is almost as theatrical as the one Correa pulled off after walking off the Yankees in Game 2 of the ALCS to save Houston’s season. Still, a lot of his teammates swear they haven’t even seen it in the immediate aftermath of this World Series Game 4.
“I was actually in the tunnel doing something else and I missed it,” Harris says. “I haven’t seen it yet. But I’ll catch it on the Internet I’m sure. It will probably be on my Instagram a few times.”
Correa also happened to look away for part of the long trot. No worries.
“I know it was great,” Correa says. “That’s when he gets all swaggy. I love it.”
Bregman’s back. The fun, dominant Astros are back. Just in time to make reservations for a dynasty. Don’t expect Alex Bregman to miss his seating.