The Astros are sporting celebratory 60th anniversary patches on their hats and uniforms.
Hello! Welcome to another edition of the Astros Beat newsletter.
BREGMAN FEELING IT EARLY
It’s only been five games -- four of which he started -- but the quick start at the plate by third baseman Alex Bregman is an extremely encouraging sign for the Astros -- and perhaps news for American League pitchers.
For those who have followed Bregman’s career since he was called up to the Major Leagues in 2016, getting off to a good start at the plate hasn’t exactly come easy for him. He famously and -- frustratingly, for him -- went 1-for-32 to begin his Major League career in 2016 and was even 1-for-15 to start 2019, the year he posted a 1.015 OPS with 41 homers, 122 runs, 112 RBIs and 119 walks en route to a second-place American League Most Valuable Player finish. Bregman, who's been hampered by injuries the last two seasons, was named the AL Player of the Week for the first four games season. He went 6-for-13 with a pair of homers with six RBIs while making three starts last week in Anaheim.
“I feel pretty good,” said Bregman after Sunday’s win. “Just getting the timing squared away. I still haven’t gotten that many ABs yet but [I'm] feeling alright and feeling good and just been able to put some good swings on it. I’m seeing it pretty good.”
More importantly for Bregman and the Astros is that he seems to be completely healthy after missing 59 games last season with a quad injury and then being hampered by a wrist injury that required offseason surgery. When he wasn’t playing in '21, Bregman worked relentlessly in getting his leg in shape to avoid another soft tissue injury. And he carried that work into the winter.
While Bregman’s plate discipline remains elite, a sign that his legs are healthy is that his sprint speed is up, albeit in a limited sample size. He flashed a 27.1 feet per second sprint speed going down the first-base line while trying to beat out a grounder in Anaheim. Last season, his average sprint speed clocked in at 25.6 feet per second, down from 27.0 in ‘20 and 27.4 in ’19.
A shortened Spring Training meant Bregman didn’t get the number of at-bats that he would have liked in Grapefruit League play, but his tireless work in the offseason has paid off so far.
“It was definitely different, the quick buildup, getting into the season,” Bregman explained. “I just had to say all these guys in here did a really good job this offseason of putting in the necessary work of being able to have their bodies in a good position to be able to play after a quick ramp-up.”
Simply put, a return to the offensive production that Bregman had in ‘18 and ‘19 would be a massive lift to a Carlos Correa-less Astros.
Chase Field and the Astros are linked in a few unique ways.
I WAS THERE
Even though they’ve been in the AL for 10 years, the Astros still seem to play the D-backs quite a bit, like they are this week. Trips to Chase Field can be interesting, and the Astros have a few memorable moments there, including clinching a playoff spot in 2015 and Gerrit Cole’s 16-strikeout game in 2018.
Then there was April 29, 2008. I’ll never forget that game. D-backs pitcher Max Scherzer made his Major League debut in relief and retired all 13 batters he faced, striking out seven while blowing away hitters. You could tell immediately there was something special about Scherzer, and boy was there ever.
Eight All-Star appearances, three Cy Youngs and more than 3,000 strikeouts later, Scherzer appears headed for the Hall of Fame when his career is done. It all started against the Astros.
THREE QUESTIONS WITH RP PHIL MATON:
Q: What is your favorite road city and why?
A: I mean, I’m probably a little biased because I was drafted by them, but I really love going to San Diego. It’s a really cool stadium and I know a lot of food places around there, so I really enjoy going there.
Q: What’s your favorite restaurant on the road?
A: There’s a place we’ve gotten to go to before in Chicago called Duck Duck Goat. It’s an Asian place … really, really good. We just DoorDash it. I’ve never been to the restaurant, but DoorDash is really, really good.
Q: Do you have a routine you absolutely have to do before every game?
A: I try not to be a locked down by routines, especially in the bullpen, a lot can happen. I try not to get too caught up [in] being locked down to my routine.
DUSTY'S QUOTE of the WEEK
“Now they can take something out of this part and put it in this part. Dr. Frankenstein, he’s way ahead of his time. I used to think that was crazy watching Frankenstein. He had an ear over there and something else over here. This modern medicine is great at extending [a] guy’s career.” -- Baker marveling about Tommy John surgery.
Sunday marked the 60th anniversary of the first game in franchise history. The expansion Colt .45s (who would become the Astros three years later) beat the Cubs, 11-2, on April 10, 1962, at Colt Stadium. Bobby Shantz pitched a complete game, but who hit the first homer in franchise history?
- A. Bob Aspromonte
B. Al Spangler
- C. Roman Mejias
- D. Hal Smith
INSIDE THE ASTROS VAULT
May 17, 1990: Eric Anthony joined Doug Rader and Jimmy Wynn in becoming the only Astros players to launch a homer into the Astrodome’s seventh-level upper deck. Anthony’s homer, off Mike Bielecki of the Cubs, was the first upper-deck homer to right field in Astrodome history. It landed in Section 761B, Row A, Seat 7. A primitive home run estimate had the ball traveling 410 feet, which made Astros manager Art Howe skeptical: “Whoever measured that ball must have been sleeping,” he remarked. “That was hit [at] least 500 feet, and it was still going up.”
C. Mejias, who started in right field and batted third, went 3-for-5 with six RBIs, including a pair of home runs. The first homer came in the third inning after Don Cardwell walked Aspromonte and Spangler to lead off the inning. Smith homered three batters later, and Mejias hit another three-run blast in the eighth inning.
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