Culture / Sporting Life

Alex Bregman Just Can’t Wait to Beat the Indians — His Uber Intensity Drives Corey Kluber Batty

This New Astros MVP Sets Tone for Crucial Game 1 Romp Long Before First Pitch

BY // 10.05.18

It is more than 90 minutes till first pitch — and Alex Bregman is already in full uniform, just sitting at his locker, itching to go. There are NFL stars who get less amped up before a game. The 24-year-old who’s driving this Houston Astros team during its “Back-to-Back” tour just cannot help himself.

And his teammates dig every minute of the Bregman Show.

“I think he was all jerseyed up at about 11:30,” Astros right fielder Josh Reddick says with a chuckle. “Just ready to go.”

When Reddick — hardly a reserved fellow himself, the guy known for wearing victory Speedos after big series wins — is calling you out for being a little out there… well, you may have issues. Alexander David Bregman certainly has a baseball issue.

First pitch wouldn’t come until 1:07 pm on this Friday, enveloping Houston in the now familiar loving embrace of big-time postseason baseball at Minute Maid Park. A sold-out stadium. Fans getting pumped up in the parking lot. A giant Orange “Never Settle” flag enveloping the infield in the pregame. And almost every green seat in the ballpark filled by the start of the game.

This is no late arriving Houston Texans crowd.

Still, first pitch can never get here early enough for Bregman. The crowd — and the defending champions — don’t really get started until he does either. For three and a half innings of playoff baseball, there are nothing but zeros on the scoreboard.

Then, Alex Bregman takes a swing against previously untouchable Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber in the bottom of the fourth — and everything changes. Bregman sends Kluber’s 2-1 cutter soaring into the Crawford Boxes in left — and the fun is back, the relentless Houston lineup is back, the defending champs are back.

There will be three more Astros home runs before the afternoon is done — and an emphatic 7-2 tone-setting victory in the opener of this excruciatingly short and dangerous best-of-five divisional round.

Now, that’s a welcome back to playoff baseball.

“It’s huge,” Tyler White says of Bregman’s bomb after his own 2-for-3 playoff debut. “You almost expect him to be the guy to do it. He just has such belief that he’s going to get it done.

“He’s one of the most fun players to play with in the game.”

October baseball is turning into Alex Bregman’s world. And everyone else is just living in it. Bregman’s now has five home runs in his very short postseason career. The pitchers he’s hit them off of read like some type of no way, Murders Arms fantasy team (Chris Sale twice, Clayton Kershaw, Kensley Jansen and now Kluber).

Jose Altuve, the real reigning American League MVP, just keeps calling Bregman the MVP in his own postgame session with the media. “That’s the only thing you can say about him,” Altuve insists. “He’s a big reason why we’re here.”

And a big reason why the Astros offense suddenly looks as much fun as the one that terrorized pitchers last October. Once Bregman knocks the luster off Kluber, the champs are rolling. George Springer and Altuve hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning in the span of three pitches. Defensive catcher savant Martin Maldonado, one of Astros GM Jeff Luhnow’s most underrated additions, goes deep in the seventh.

Now, that’s a welcome back to playoff baseball.

This October’s Astros are so much deeper than the team that won it at all last fall. This Houston team has so many weapons. The Astros rack up 12 hits against the Indians’ vaunted pitching staff on this day (the Indians manage to get three).

But it all starts with Bregman, the man who just can’t wait to play.

“He just loves baseball,” Reddick says. “And we love him for it.”

A New October, the Same Justin Verlander

The game’s still tied when Bregman jolts the Astros offense into overdrive because a pitcher 11 years the third baseman’s senior is already back to his typical Houston postseason dominance. With a noticeably proudly pregnant Kate Upton watching from a stadium suite, Justin Verlander does not give up a hit until the sixth inning.

Later, when Astros manger A.J. Hinch brings in Lance McCullers, a starter with the potential of being a 20 game winner some year, to pitch the eighth inning, it almost looks like the manager is showing off. Houston is just that deep, just that talented.

Getting through the relentless grind of baseball’s 162-game regular season is never easy for a team that just won the World Series. But now, with the Astros back in the playoffs, with a legacy setting repeat title now just 10 wins away, Bregman and his buds suddenly look like they’re flying.

These Astros love the big stage and the bright lights more than the most warped reality TV contestant.

“I think for us to kind of understand that this game is hard, and it’s not going to be handed to us, was the best thing for us,” Springer says of the sometimes joy-light regular season march. “So now these are the games where you go out, you have fun, and you do whatever it is that you have to do to try to help the team win.”

Sometimes, that means sitting at your locker in full uniform, in full eye black, long before the first pitch. Way long before. There are sorts of different ways to set the tone.

“He’s the heartbeat of this team,” reliever Ryan Pressly, another high-impact Astros playoff first timer, says of Bregman. “Everybody gets along with that guy. He’s one of the happiest dudes in the clubhouse.

“He’s just a kid playing ball.”

If only we all could approach our jobs the way Alex Bregman approaches his dream one, the only one he ever wanted, or expected, to have. Bregman is ready — and then some. Of course, he is. It’s October.

Now, that’s a welcome back to playoff baseball.

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