Culture / Sporting Life

Alex Bregman Uses Kate Upton Baby Luck, Jose Altuve Swings Back and Framber Valdez Wows Dad — How the Astros Came Together to Grab a Must-Win World Series Game

The Together Astros Shake Off That Game 1 Loss and Turn This Series Around

BY // 10.30.22

Whenever Alex Bregman steps into the batter’s box this postseason, his 3-month-old son Knox finds himself in Kate Upton’s arms. The supermodel wife of Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander is tasked with bringing Bregman and the Astros luck by holding Knox for every Bregman at-bat. As baseball superstitions go, this one — with Reagan Bregman handing off Baby Knox to Upton for her husband’s at-bats — may be the sweetest luck producer ever.

It certainly works in Game 2 of the World Series with Bregman smashing a two-run home run to deep left center with Upton holding Baby Knox. For the still new father, it’s another big playoff dinger. For the Astros, it’s the punctuation point on a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies that evens this series — and smashes any thoughts of Houston doubts.

Then again, who isn’t going to feel lucky with Kate Upton holding them? And who isn’t going to have a blast playing and fighting with this most together of Astros teams?

“In all honesty though, this is probably the most fun I ever had playing baseball,” Bregman says.

This from the hard-working grinder who often seems to live for baseball. From the guy who won a world championship as a rookie on that dance-party-happy 2017 team. Yes, Alex Bregman will tell you 2022 is even better in all kinds of ways. Not the least of which is having his wife Reagan and little Knox along for the ride.

Did you really think these now 114 win Astros (106 regular season victories and eight playoff wins and counting now) would be spooked by that Game 1 loss to the Phillies? With guys like Alex Bregman having the time of their lives?

“I mean, that guys lives in the postseason,” Astros center fielder Chas McCormick says of Bregman. “All six years he’s been in the Big Leagues, he’s been in the postseason. . . Bregman’s incredible. I was looking at his numbers today and he has a 1500 OPS or something like that (in the playoffs).

“Yeah, he’s our leader. And if he stays hot, we’ll be in good shape.”

“In all honesty though, this is probably the most fun I ever had playing baseball.” — Alex Bregman

Bregman now has six World Series home runs in his still relatively young career, along with that little walkoff single in that wild 13-12 Game 5 win over the Dodgers in 2017. But Bregman will tell you that Jose Altuve’s return to hitting form is what really drives the Astros in this beyond loud World Series Game 2 at Minute Maid Park.

Altuve smashes the first pitch that Phillies ace Zack Wheeler throws into left field for a double and adds two more hits before this Saturday night is done. Suddenly, Altuve’s deep funk of a playoff struggle looks like a thing of the past. Three loud hits — three very Altuve aggressive hits — can do that.

“He was aggressive tonight,” McCormick tells PaperCity when I ask about Altuve. “And when he hit that fastball at his head past the first baseman, that’s when you know he’s going well. He can crush pitches out of the zone that no one else can hit.

“He was on time today. And it’s beautiful.”

Having Jose Altuve back to being Jose Altuve can change plenty for a team that’s trying to become a modern dynasty. It makes a second championship seem that much more likely. It also gives the Phillies plenty to think about as the teams head to Philadelphia with Game 3 set for Halloween night in the October Treehouse of Horror known as Citizens Bank Park.

“We’re excited to see that from him,” veteran Astros catcher Martin Maldonado says of Altuve’s breakout. “. . . Like that last at-bat. Nobody can hit that pitch but Jose Altuve. People forget how that guy won batting titles, MVP, 200 hits a couple of years. Led the league in stolen bases.

“He’s a one of a kind.”

Houston Astros Justin Verkander won his 8th games of the season, helped by home runs by Jeremy Pena and Jose Altuve, at Minute Maid Park
When Jose Altuve is happy, the Astros are usually happy. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Jose Altuve also remains the heartbeat of these Astros in so many ways at age 32. While this 2022 Houston team is powered by the elite pitching of arms like co-ace Framber Valdez, who keeps coming up big these playoffs, Altuve remains a difference maker. A tone setter.

On this Saturday night, that tone is louder than loud. And as quick striking as a disturbed cobra. Which in many ways, these Astros are after blowing that 5-0 lead in Game One.

“It was a big deep breath because today was a must-win game,” Game 3 starter Lance McCullers Jr. says.  “Today was a must-win game for us. That’s how we were approaching it.

“You never want to go down 2-0, especially when the first two are at home.”

So Altuve and the Astros give that no chance of happening.

“I’m always ready to swing,” Altuve says.

Jose Altuve, Baby Bregman and a World Series Statement

These Astros pounce faster than a cougar on vacation in White Lotus in Game Two. Altuve laces the first pitch Wheeler throws into left field, where it rolls to the wall for a no doubt double. Then, rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña doubles down the third base line on the first pitch he sees to easily score Altuve.

Two Wheeler pitches. Two Astros doubles. Bang. Bang.

Minute Maid Park is louder than it’s been all season with The Juice Box absolutely exploding in competing walls of noise. And this Houston offense is just getting started.

The Astros’ third hitter — Yordan Alvarez — fouls off the first pitch he gets. Then Alvarez hits a booming double of his own high up the manual scoreboard in left field. The Phillies ace has thrown four pitches — and it’s already 3-0 Astros.

Spaceships don’t start this fast. The world’s quickest launch roller coaster doesn’t create the kind of whiplash the Phillies are suddenly feeling.

“We’re relentless,” McCormick tells PaperCity. “We’ve been in the postseason a lot. So we’re used to this environment. We love it. We feed off it. It’s huge for the team to get a win today.

“That’s all we needed to do.”

“I mean, that guys lives in the postseason. All six years he’s been in the Big Leagues, he’s been in the postseason. . . Bregman’s incredible.” — Chas McCormick on Alex Bregman

When Bregman smacks a booming home run into deep left center, right off that light blue 1 Point Five sign, in the fifth inning, rock concerts wouldn’t recognize the decibel level in Minute Maid. For the second straight night, the Astros will take a 5-0 lead on Philadelphia.

This time, Houston holds it. Thanks in part to the Chick-fil-A foul pole in right field. When Phillies mash man Kyle Schwarber hits a booming shot to right off Rafael Montero in the eighth inning, it’s called a home run at first. A home run that would have cut a 5-1 Astros lead into a very uncomfortable 5-3 advantage.

A review (and replays) shows that Schwarber’s deep missile clearly drifts outside that long yellow Chick-fil-A pole with the cow cutouts on it, turning it into a harmless foul ball instead. Talk about not counting your chickens.

“They’re never easy,” Astros owner Jim Crane says of these World Series wins. “They never come easy.”

Now, the Astros can turn to Lance McCullers and Cristian Javier in Games 3 and 4 while the Phillies face much more pitching uncertainty. Eight playoff wins down. Three more needed for a second Astros championship. Maybe the three hardest.

Houston Astros Framer Valdez pitched 7 innings to win Game Two of the American League Championship Series over the New York Yankees Thursday at Minute Maid Park
Houston Astros workhorse Framer Valdez looks to the heavens after another quality start. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Valdez picks up his co-ace Justin Verlander to put the Astros in good position to grab them. With his dad among the 42,926 crammed into Minute Maid Park for the first time ever, walks off the mound to one of the most thunderous ovations of the entire season. Jose Antonio Valdez Ramirez’s son earned all that noise — and then some.

Framber Valdez strikes out nine in six and one third innings of one run ball.

This is the stuff of a workhorse who’s feeling his own October moment. Valdez’s dad is scared of flying which is why he never left the Dominican Republic to see his son pitch in person in the Big Leagues before this World Series Game 2. But his son has the Astros feeling like they can fly.

“I saw a lot from Framber today,” McCormick says. “I saw a lot. His sinker was moving so much. His curveball was so sharp. He’s amazing.

“I tell you what, tonight was probably the best I’ve ever seen him pitch. He was locked in.”

Just another Astro rising to moment of a World Series game that this proud team regarded as a must win. Whether it’s Alex Bregman mashing while Kate Upton holds little Baby Knox, Jose Altuve swinging with the aggressiveness of a Pentecostal preacher on Easter Sunday or Framber Valdez wowing his own dad (and everyone else in Minute Maid), these Astros have more than enough answers.

A little luck never hurts. A team like this means even more. Alex Bregman is having the time of his life. And Knox Samuel Bregman is going to hear some unbelievable stories about when he was a baby someday. The best type of October stories.

Part of the Special Series:

PaperCity - Astros Playoffs