Bregman finds timing, homers to break out of slump

April 12th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- The Houston Astros might have taken their toughest loss of the young season Tuesday night.

Rookie Ji Hwan Bae hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off closer Ryan Pressly to send Houston to a 7-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

Bae’s first career walk-off hit came after Chas McCormick laced a two-run double in the top of the ninth inning off Pirates closer David Bednar to pull the Astros into a 4-4 tie.

“We were riding so high one moment, and the next moment they are celebrating,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We [have] had a lot of opportunities to bust games open late. We’re one hit away, one pitch away. We’ve just got to keep plugging. That’s all you can do, but this one hurts.”

The hard-to-swallow defeat overshadowed Astros third baseman 's best game of 2023.

Bregman hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot off Mitch Keller, in the first inning. Bregman also doubled as he went 2-for-5.

Coming into the game, Bregman had a .163 batting average. However, he did reach base four times Monday night with a single and three walks in an 8-2 victory over the Pirates.

“I think today was the best timing I’ve had, the best consistency of at-bats I’ve had all year,” said Bregman, a two-time All-Star and a mainstay in the lineup of two World Series-winning teams in Houston.

“I was kind of late and quick, and not slow and early [with my swing]. I was kind of making my swing have a little too much effort in it rather than be effortless. I felt good the last two days working on it pregame, and it translated tonight.”

No one questions Bregman’s track record. He is a .275 career hitter over eight seasons with 141 home runs.

Baker certainly wasn’t panicked by his third baseman’s slow start.

“Bregman was good,” Baker said. “The last couple days, he’s seen a lot of pitches. I’m not worried about Bregman. He works at it, and he’ll get it.

Kyle Tucker also homered for the Astros with a leadoff shot in the second inning that put them ahead, 2-0. Like Bregman, Tucker also had two hits.

“I started my career, and it wasn’t pretty,” Bregman said with a laugh. “I think it’s been a positive thing that’s happened in the past -- having some rough times so you know how to get out of it.

“You get out of it by maintaining that good feel for a long period of time. That’s the key. All in all, you just go back to your routine and preparation, and stick with it and know that it’s worked in the past.”

The Astros are off to a 5-7 start but also know what has worked for them in the past. They have reached the American League Championship Series in each of the past six seasons and have been to four World Series in that span.

Bregman has been there for it all and knows his team suddenly hasn’t forgotten how to win.

“I think it’s part of it being early in the season,” Bregman said. “Obviously, we haven’t played our best baseball yet. There have been flashes of really good things, but things we need to clean up as well.

“I’m definitely confident in this group coming together and playing really good team baseball going forward.”