LOS ANGELES — Alex Bregman had a terrific first full season in the big leagues this year, but when the Astros entered the postseason he still was overshadowed by teammates Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve.
And while those two certainly haven’t ceded the spotlight in the postseason, Bregman, especially in the World Series, has joined the duo on center stage.
“I love that guy,” Altuve said of Bregman, 23. “He brings a lot of things to the table that definitely helped us to be here in the World Series.”
It was Bregman who delivered a two-out, walk-off single off Kenley Jansen in the 10th inning of Game 5 that gave the Astros a 13-12 victory over the Dodgers and a three-games-to-two lead entering Tuesday night’s Game 6.
“I knew he was going to do it,” said Altuve, among the favorites to win the American League MVP award. “He likes those kind of situations. He’s calling for it. I knew he was ready to get the big hit. He did it.”
Correa said there’s “nobody more confident” in the clubhouse than Bregman, drafted second overall in 2015 as a shortstop and converted to a third baseman because Correa already was cemented at short. This season Bregman hit .284 with 19 homers, 17 RBIs and 17 stolen bases.
“He’s very confident every time,” Correa said. “He’s going to show up for the game, he expects the best out of himself. And he was facing Jansen, the best closer in the game, and he went to hit knowing that the game was going to be over. So that’s what makes him so special: He’s always very confident.”
Bregman had been doing it all series, hitting .273 with a .911 OPS the first five games. He homered against Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and off Jansen in Game 4, and also has shined in the field. Much more under the radar amid the insanity of Game 5 was Bregman’s working a walk off Kershaw that put two runners on in the fifth. He turned out to be the last batter the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner faced. Kenta Maeda came on to face Altuve, whose three-run homer tied it at 7.
“I think he understands exactly what he does well, which he did from day one,” manager A.J. Hinch said of Bregman. “And I think being calm in the moment is innate. I think he understands, has a confidence level, has an awareness. He is cool and calm and completely in control of himself in these moments. I don’t care if he’s been in the league one year or 10 years, he’s demonstrating some very unique traits in the biggest moments.”
Bregman said offseason acquisitions Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Josh Reddick have made a difference for the Astros.
“Since we signed them, they brought a confidence to this team that we didn’t have last year,” Bregman said. “And they instilled a work ethic and a confidence that we know that we’re never out of the game, that we’re going to keep fighting. And I think this World Series has been an example of our team’s whole season.”
Though he didn’t hit much against the Yankees in the ALCS — slashing .167/.259/.208 — Bregman made one of the defensive plays of the series and the most significant of Game 7.
With the Astros leading 1-0 in the fifth inning and Yankees at the corners, Todd Frazier chopped one to third. Having no chance to turn two, Bregman charged and threw a bullet to McCann, who barely had to move his glove as Greg Bird slid into it for the out. The Astros would win the game, 4-0.
“He’s a ballplayer, and that’s one of the ultimate compliments you can give a baseball player,” said Houston’s Game 6 starter, Justin Verlander, who compared Bregman to Boston’s Dustin Pedroia. “He does everything you can possibly do to help us win. He’s not scared at all. I think you can see in some of the defensive plays he’s made and some of the home runs he’s hit against the pitchers that he hit them against, he thrives in big moments. When the pressure is on, he’s a guy you want in your corner.”