HOUSTON -- This may as well have been a replay of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, an Alex Bregman highlight reel on loop. With runners on the corners and one out in the sixth inning Saturday, Bregman glanced into the home dugout, where Astros bench coach Alex Cora pointed to his head. "Think" was the message. Bregman shuffled forward a few steps from his position off third base. On any ball to his left, Bregman would attempt to start an inning-ending double play. On any ball in front of him, he intended to throw home.
So when Chris Taylor bounced a chopper to the left side of the infield, Bregman charged it, fielded it cleanly and fired a clean strike to the plate, giving catcher Brian McCann an easy path to tag out Austin Barnes. At the time, that preserved a scoreless tie in Game 4 of the World Series, which the Astros eventually lost to Dodgers, 6-2.
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"I think it gave us a little bit of a momentum boost," Bregman said. "But they're a good team. We knew this Series was going to be a battle."
The early innings of Game 4 typified that notion. With starting pitchers Alex Wood and Charlie Morton both slinging zeros, it became clear that one hit, one play, one mistake could make the difference. Morton seemed primed to crack first when he hit Barnes with a pitch and allowed an Enrique Hernandez single in the sixth, giving the Dodgers runners on the corners with one out.
The situation was nearly identical to the fifth inning of ALCS Game 7, when Bregman fired home and -- thanks to a superb tag from McCann -- kept the Yankees from tying the game.
"If you can make a good play ... it changes that momentum a little bit," Dodgers infielder John Forsythe said. "It's big for pitchers and it's saving their pitches, allowing them to go deeper into games. It's big."
About the only differences from Bregman's ALCS Game 7 play were that this time, the game was already tied, and thanks to a harder-hit ball, he did not have to rush his throw home.
"He puts it right on the money," McCann said. "You can see he's been playing phenomenal defense since Day 1. Those aren't easy plays he's making look easy. I can't say enough good things about Alex."
Although Saturday's game was all but out of reach for the Astros by the bottom of the ninth, Bregman added a solo homer off Kenley Jansen to notch his second long ball and team-high fourth RBI of the World Series.
It's worth noting that Bregman's other homer came in Game 1 against Clayton Kershaw, who just so happens to be scheduled to start Sunday's Game 5 at Minute Maid Park with the Series tied, 2-2.
"I can't wait," Bregman said. "I know everyone in here wishes the game was right now. This is the World Series. This is going to be a dogfight. The two best teams are the teams left standing. It's been that was since Day One, since the season started. I know we're not going to back down."