HOUSTON—Alex Bregman has lived a charmed existence so far in his big league career. He's played six full seasons and advanced to the American League Championship all six years. At just 28 years old, he's already playing in his fourth World Series.
To hear him tell it, this month has been the most fun he's had in any of those previous Octobers.
Bregman pumped some fun into Minute Maid Park when he ripped a slider from Phillies starter Zach Wheeler for a two-run homer that helped the Astros to a crucial 5-2 win in Game 2 to even the World Series on Saturday night.
In his live in-game TV interview from the home dugout shortly after the homer, Bregman credited his success this postseason to the fun he's having, in addition to his newfound "dad power" after he and wife Reagan had their first child Knox in August. In a postgame press conference, he was asked to explain his performance besides simply having fun.
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"In all honestly, though, this is probably the most fun I've ever had playing baseball," Bregman said.
It's easy to enjoy yourself when you're the cleanup hitter for a team that's won eight of nine postseason games and you're hitting .316 (12-for-38) with three home runs. Against the Phillies, Bregman is 2-for-8 with a home run, double and two RBI. Put another way, he already has as many hits and RBI this World Series as he had the entire sixgame Fall Classic against the Braves last season.
That World Series was a dreadful one for Bregman as he was dropped from third to seventh in the order after the Astros fell behind in the series 3-1. Bregman had surgery on his wrist six days after his team was eliminated.
Astros manager Dusty Baker spoke of how bad he felt for his third baseman last postseason and calls this year's version, "The real Bregman, and there's even some more better Bregman in there."
The real Bregman started showing up after the AllStar break. After hitting .238 in the first half, he hit .287 after the break, which he credits to staying in the cage during the break. He said he's known that, during his swing, his front side was opening too much, but had trouble fixing the mechanics of it. Intense cagework at the All-Star break finally made the adjustments click and he's seen the results.
Bregman got a chance to show off his healthy wrist and proper mechanics in the fifth inning when Yordan Alvarez kept the inning alive by hustling down the line on a ground ball and narrowly spoiling a possible inning-ending double play.
Wheeler gave Bregman two straight sinkers that missed the zone before hanging a slider directly over the heart of the plate. It exited Bregman's bat at 104.3 mph — the Astros' hardest-hit ball of the night — and traveled 405 feet, ricocheting off the facade in left-center.
"I think the credit for that should go to Yordan for hustling down the line and keeping that inning alive, to be honest," Bregman said.
While Alvarez's hustle did give Bregman an opportunity, it was that inning's home run and Jose Altuve's leadoff double in the bottom of the first that really seemed to spark things and brought up that word again: Fun.
"When you get on base to let the boys like Alex hit homers, it is fun," Altuve said.