Alex Bregman, the 23-year-old Houston Astros third baseman, hit the game-tying homer to help his team rally to beat the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series on Monday. In this first-person account for Yahoo Sports, Bregman tells the story of the home run through his eyes.
I knew what pitch I was looking for before I even stepped in the batter’s box against Chris Sale. It was the change-up. Nothing else. Just the change-up.
The first pitch came — change-up, but way outside. Nope. Not swinging.
Let’s not change anything. Let’s stick to the plan.
The second pitch came — another change-up. And I swung and missed.
I might have just missed my shot.
• • •
A few minutes before this, I was standing in the on-deck circle when I heard Yuli Gurriel call out to me. I was about to have one of the biggest at-bats of my career against one of the best pitchers in the league.
“Oye,” he said and pointed toward the Green Monster. “Vamos, vamos.”
He wanted me to hit a homer? Me too. A bunch of people back in Houston would have loved that. We were down by one to the Boston Red Sox, one win away from advancing to the American League Championship Series.
A home run would be perfect, but I just wanted to help my team. We needed to do something. Ever since the Red Sox had put in Chris Sale we hadn’t been able to get any momentum. We need a hit, a base runner — something, somehow.
I had seen enough of Sale in this series to know the change-ups were coming. It was the first pitch he threw me in the sixth inning. I was too anxious, got too excited and I flew out to centerfield. In Game 1, he punched me out on a change-up. Six pitches, four change-ups. I’d been paying attention.
This at-bat, I wasn’t going to be anxious. I was going to force him to make the pitch and I was going to trust my hands and my swing.
• • •
The third pitch came — fastball, outside. Not for me. Not swinging.
If he gets me out on a fastball or a slider, good for him. I’m still looking change-up.
Sale thought it was a strike. The Fenway Park fans did too. I shook my head. I just wanted to give them the idea that I was looking for the fastball, even though I was sitting change-up the entire at-bat.
• • •
I was 5 years old when I started to imagine myself in these situations. A tight postseason game. Needing the big hit. My team counting on me. Even here in Fenway Park. My mom was a Yankees fan, so as a kid, I’d root against the Yankees to mess with her. I used to pretend I was hitting homers for the Red Sox.
I’d be in the backyard with my dad and he’d say, “The pressure is on. It’s the ninth inning with two outs. You need to come through for your team. This is to decide what we have for dinner tonight.”
This was more important than dinner. This was my first time in the playoffs, surrounded by a bunch of players I looked up to — proven veterans like Justin Verlander, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran; our younger stars like Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer.
When you’re young and in the big leagues, you don’t really feel like you belong until you start to contribute and start to help the team win. It’s the same in the postseason. I wanted to prove to them that I could help the team win. I had a couple of hits in Game 1, including a homer, but I was 0-for-10 since that. As I was heading to the plate, our bench coach Alex Cora stopped me.
“Every other at-bat in this series doesn’t matter,” he said. “All that matters is one at-bat. One swing can change this game. One swing. That’s it.”
• • •
The fourth pitch was coming. I knew Sale likes to finish batters off with fastball. It was a 2-1 count. The change-up could be coming again. This could be my chance. I couldn’t miss it.
When the ball left his hand, I saw it. There it was, the change-up. The pitch I’d been waiting for.
Stay on it, stay on it, stay on it. Oh God — I got it! Tie game.
• • •
Want to know the biggest difference between when you imagine these things as a kid and when it really happened in Game 4? The crowd didn’t go wild. Not at Fenway Park. They were dead silent.
I could hear the steps I was taking on the dirt it was so quiet.
I stepped on home plate and Carlos and Jose were there. They’d jumped out of the dugout. We have special handshakes we made up in spring training for when one of us hits a home run. This was about the best time to do them.
Verlander was there and he gave me a high-five. It’s a great feeling to have a guy who is so decorated, who has such a great career — especially in the postseason — to be out in front of the dugout. It makes you feel like, wow, you really did something special. You really helped your team.
Everybody knows what happened next: Evan Gattis singled, Springer walked and Reddick came up next. I was standing on the top step of the dugout and everything was so quiet. It felt like it was just us talking and nobody was even there anymore.
I looked at Verlander on my right and told him, “Josh Reddick is up. This is the guy I want up right now.” Sure enough, base hit through the six-hole. We went crazy in the dugout. Especially me. You might have seen the GIF.
When I got to the clubhouse, the first thing I asked was, “Hey, do you have goggles? I need some goggles bad.”
Before the words came out my mouth, the champagne was shooting toward my eyes. I couldn’t breathe for about 30 seconds there was so much champagne being poured on my head.
My phone had about 650 text messages and my Twitter was blowing up. I found my mom outside the clubhouse. She told me about all the people who had sent her pictures and videos of the home run.
“Can you pull up the video real quick?” I asked her. “I want to see what it looked like for everyone else.”
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