Alex Bregman hit a booming home run with Kate Upton holding his baby son Knox. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve can change everything for the Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Framber Valdez is making the most of his World Series moment. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The Astros are at their best when Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez are having fun and making big swings. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The atmosphere at Minute Maid Park is electric during the playoffs. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros general manager James Click and Dusty Baker are under the playoff microscope. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Catcher Martin Maldonado and Framber Valdez are a very effective pair. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros greats Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell came together to throw out the first pitch before Game 2 of the World Series. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Framber Valdez stepped up for the Astros in Game 2 of the World Series. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is a unique player. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Yuli Gurriel and Alex Bregman are two of the Core Astros who've been a major part of things since 2017. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman has come up with big moments these playoffs. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
When Jose Altuve is happy, the Astros are usually happy. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Core Astros Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel are still getting it done. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Justin Verlander and Kate Upton are loving going on this Houston Astros ride together. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
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, October 20, 2022
Ryne & Katherine Ponick, Reagan & Alex Bregman at the Houston Astros Team Up event at Tootsies (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
Houston Astros workhorse Framer Valdez looks to the heavens after another quality start. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Kyle Tucker's Ted Williams swing can be a thing of beauty when he's on. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
AAstros catcher Martin Maldonado's hair color changes always draws a crowd of gawkers. Including excellent Astros sideline reporter Julia Morales in this case. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The World Series brings a big stage for everyone on the Phillies and Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The upstart, no way Phillies have dreams of their own in this World Series. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena finds himself in the World Series spotlight. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The World Series trophy is the prize that every team in baseball covets. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Justin Verlander is still waiting for his big World Series moment where he seizes a game. And gets that first World Series W. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros manager Dusty Baker knows how to steady these talented Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Reggie Jackson wearing Astros gear is almost becoming a familiar site in October in Houston. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros manager Dusty Baker and veteran catcher Martin Maldonado are two of the biggest voices on this team. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane took his youngest son James to the World Series. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
The World Series is back in Minute Maid Park for the fourth time in six years and all is right in Astros world. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros rookie Jeremy Pena and Jose Altuve are already close. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Framber Valdez can be a dominant pitcher for the Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve can collect hits in bunches when he's right. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Veteran catcher Martin Maldonado stands at the heart of everything the Astros do. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Phillies star Bryce Harper is one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
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.”
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.
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.