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A-Breg sets new high for HRs, has a fan in Trout

@brianmctaggart
August 25, 2019

HOUSTON -- The respect runs deep between Alex Bregman and Mike Trout. They’ve become fast friends and respected opponents, and make sure to catch up when the Angels and Astros play each other to talk about life, baseball and, of course, fantasy football. Trout, the Angels’ do-everything center fielder, appears

HOUSTON -- The respect runs deep between Alex Bregman and Mike Trout. They’ve become fast friends and respected opponents, and make sure to catch up when the Angels and Astros play each other to talk about life, baseball and, of course, fantasy football.

Trout, the Angels’ do-everything center fielder, appears headed for his third American League Most Valuable Player Award this year, which would make him only the 11th player to win three MVPs. It’s the kind of rarefied air Bregman has strived to achieve from an early age, when he made the determination he wanted to be the best player in baseball.

Box score

That title is currently in the hands of Trout, but Bregman is putting together the kind of season that could see him perhaps finish as a runner-up in the MVP race. He went 2-for-3 and clubbed a three-run homer in the Astros’ 5-2 win over the Angels on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, setting a career high with 32 homers with five weeks remaining in the season.

“It’s really cool,” Bregman said. “I’m just happy it came in a win today.”

The win improved the Astros to 84-47, tying them with the Yankees for the best record in the AL as the clubs jockey for home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Astros are 48-16 at home this year, which would make them a tough out if they have home field.

Bregman was in the thick of the Astros’ lineup in 2017 when they beat the Yankees in seven games in the AL Championship Series, in which the home team won every game. And Bregman’s walk-off single in Game 5 of the World Series helped propel Houston to a title. Bregman has the ring Trout is still chasing.

“I'm definitely a fan,” Trout said. “He comes out ready to play every day. He hits the ball out of the ballpark, drives in runs. He's a good player, he can play anywhere, any field. He's fun to watch, hopefully not against us. But he's been getting us lately.”

Michael Brantley socked a two-run homer in the first inning to put the Astros ahead, and Bregman turned on a 1-0 pitch from Angels starter Dillon Peters in the third and shot it 356 feet -- according to Statcast -- into the Crawford Boxes for a 5-0 lead. That was all the offense the Astros needed behind starter Wade Miley, who improved to 7-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his last 12 starts by holding the Angels to one run in five innings.

Bregman’s homer extended his on-base streak to 18 games, during which he’s hitting .403 with five homers and 24 RBIs.

“Just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Bregman said. “I chased yesterday. I chased too many bad pitches. Today, I was more of just strength to zone, get a good pitch to hit and it paid off. I had been chasing [at] a little bit higher rate lately because I think I was trying to chase hits. I guess, instead of chasing good pitches to hit.”

That’s what made him so encouraged by his seventh-inning single. He fell behind, 0-2, against Angels reliever Trevor Cahill before taking three balls and hitting a single to right. Bregman has swung at 16.5 percent of pitches outside the strike zone this year, which is third in MLB from 318 hitters who have had at least 50 plate appearances (Trout is at 18.1 percent). Last year, Bregman swung at 18.2 percent of pitches outside the strike zone.

“I kind of realized that when I take more pitches I put better swings on them,” he said.

Bregman entered Saturday second in the AL in walks, third in on-base percentage and OPS, tied for fourth in runs, sixth in homers and sixth in strikeout percentage. He could surpass 100 walks, 100 runs and 100 RBIs this year -- something Trout is two RBIs away from doing for the second time.

“He’s having a ton of success and getting a lot of hits,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said of Bregman. “He’s still chasing quite a bit, which is leaving him a little hungry to figure out the best version of himself. He’s so elite at setting the bar really, really high, and I don’t know how high he can take it.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.