HOUSTON -- There'll be other nights when it works out a different way for Alex Bregman. That's the thing virtually everyone around the Houston Astros believes. This kid is going to be special.So this first night in the Major Leagues, well, it didn't have the exact ending the Astros had
HOUSTON -- There'll be other nights when it works out a different way for Alex Bregman. That's the thing virtually everyone around the Houston Astros believes. This kid is going to be special.
So this first night in the Major Leagues, well, it didn't have the exact ending the Astros had hoped for in a 2-1 loss to the Yankees on Monday night at Minute Maid Park.
Here's what makes the whole thing so tantalizing. Bregman almost did something spectacular, something that, as Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, "would have taken the roof off this place."
Maybe this was the tease for all the greatness to come. Houston has run so many gifted young players through its system the past three seasons and has been unafraid to give them a chance to prove themselves in the big leagues.
On Monday night, the Astros started seven homegrown players, including Bregman, the second overall pick of the 2015 Draft. He arrived after just 128 Minor League games. He hit .306 in 62 games at Double-A this season and .333 in 18 games at Triple-A.
The Astros see Bregman as a potential difference-maker down the stretch as they go for a second straight postseason berth.
"He's going to contribute in a big way," Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said.
Correa, 21, is a year younger than Bregman, 22. He has played 193 more Major League games and won the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year Award and was one of the keys to a nice and improbable postseason run.
As for Bregman, back to that moment that almost was. In the bottom of the sixth inning. He came to bat with the bases loaded and the game tied at 1. When Yanks starter Michael Pineda left a slider an inch or two over the plate, Bregman did the kind of thing kids dream of their entire lives.
Bregman got a nice swing on the Pineda slider and launched a towering fly ball to right field that hung a bit too high and a bit too long. Yankees right fielder Aaron Hicks scampered back near the wall and hauled it in to end the inning.
"I was kind of talking to it, wishing it was going to go, but I didn't know," Bregman said.
Hey, who would have believed one of those storybook-type deals anyway? So onward.
"Not as I planned it because we didn't win the game," Bregman said.
On the other hand, Bregman will remember that he had "between 50 and 70" friends and family members, including his parents, among the 30,628 at Minute Maid Park.
He'll remember one nice ovation when his name was announced in the starting lineup and another when he came to bat for the first time in the bottom of the second inning.
Bregman will remember that the Yanks peppered him with ground balls early in the contest. After playing just 13 games at third base in the Minor Leagues, that's where he made his Major League debut.
He handled five nice plays in the first four innings. He made a nice backhanded stab of a Mark Teixeira grounder in the second and started a sweet double play to end the third.
But Bregman was hitless in four at-bats and stranded baserunners in three of those at-bats. No worry. He'll contribute plenty. Years from now, he'll remember it simply as the day he arrived.
"It's the most fun I've ever had," Bregman said. "I felt like I was playing baseball, just playing the game. It was pretty special. I'm looking forward to playing some more. I was really just trying to do anything I could to help us win."
As Bregman flew through Houston's system, he impressed almost everyone with, not just his skills, but also his serious approach and work ethic.
"He's very polished," Hinch said. "His baseball IQ is high. He plays with a little chip on his shoulder and an edge to him. He's a very mature kid that loves to play. He brings a lot of energy here."
When Hinch met with Bregman before the game, he urged him to "embrace the moment" because there's only one first game in the Majors.
"The moment wasn't too big for him," Hinch said. "He was exceptional on defense at a position he hadn't played too many innings. He had competitive at-bats."
In the end, it was just a beginning. As Hinch told Bregman, he has plenty of readymade mentors in Correa, George Springer, José Altuve and others.
"We've got a chance to win the division," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "We've got a chance to go to the playoffs and World Series. There's no reason to let Alex Bregman stay in the Minors when he can help up here."
Perhaps Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel spoke for an entire organization when he said: "He's going to be a quality Major Leaguer for years to come. He's going to contribute on a daily basis."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U.