HOUSTON -- The chatter in the home dugout at Minute Maid Park was growing louder as Alex Bregman came to the plate in the ninth inning Tuesday night, with his team trailing by two runs and one out. Bregman, playing in only his 11th game since missing more than two months with a quad injury, was due for a homer and everyone knew it.
“I heard at least five players say he’s going to hit a homer,” Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. “So we knew it was going to happen. He was having great at-bats all day long, and we were expecting a homer from him and he delivered, man.”
Boy, did he ever.
Bregman tied the game at 4 in the ninth with a dramatic two-run homer off Seattle reliever Paul Sewald, who had dominated the Astros in his previous four outings this year, and Correa won it in the 10th with a ground-rule, walk-off double to send the Astros to a 5-4 victory over the Mariners.
"This was as big a victory as we’ve had probably all year,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker, whose team improved to 3-45 this year when trailing after eight innings.
The homer was the first for Bregman since June 9 and capped a night in which he went 3-for-5. He missed 59 games with a quad strain and has returned just in time to help the Astros close in on their fourth American League West title in five years.
“He’s been hitting the ball pretty well and you know a homer was due, especially since we hadn’t hit those guys at all,” Baker said. “Their bullpen had shut us down. Between [Casey] Sadler and [Drew] Steckenrider and Sewald -- man, those guys were tough. We hadn’t come back much this year and hopefully, that’s the start of some things to come.”
The Astros (81-57) increased their lead in the American League West over the Mariners to 6 1/2 games, lowering their magic number to clinch the division over Seattle to 18. The third-place A’s are seven games back of the Astros.
“We want to play good baseball down the stretch and stay healthy and just build some momentum off playing good baseball and winning baseball,” Bregman said. “I think we’re doing a good job of that. We’ve got to keep it going.”
Bregman’s homer only tied the game, so there was still work to be done for the Astros.
After Ryne Stanek sent the Mariners down in order in the 10th -- with the help of a leaping catch at the wall by right fielder Kyle Tucker -- Correa stepped to the plate. Yuli Gurriel was at second base as the automatic runner, and the tension was building. Correa worked the count to 2-1 before ripping a 95.6 mph fastball into right field and past Mitch Haniger, who helplessly watched it bounce over the wall.
Gurriel scored easily on Correa’s eighth career walk-off hit.
“It was an important game for us, knowing they’ve been playing great baseball,” Correa said. “They’re close in the division, they’re hungry, they want to win. We just had to go out there and make a statement in this series. So far, it’s been good and hopefully, we can finish it off tomorrow.”
Bregman is hitting .357 (15-for-42) since returning from the injured list Aug. 25 and has looked comfortable at the plate, which is why there was a growing belief in the dugout in the ninth inning he was going to go deep.
“Mechanically, and how I feel in the box physically and how my swing feels, this is the best [I’ve] felt since 2019,” said Bregman, who finished a close second to Mike Trout in the AL Most Valuable Player race that year. “I’m feeling really good and just hoping to continue the same preparation, the same work with our training staff and strength coaches and hitting coaches and keep it going.”