If the Nationals didn’t have enough fueling them in Game 6 of the World Series with their season on the line, that they took exception to Bregman’s antics was obvious after Juan Soto’s solo home run in the fifth, which gave Washington the lead as it surged to a 7-2 win to force a Game 7 on Wednesday.
After driving the ball into the upper deck in right field, Soto carried his bat to first base before dropping it, mocking Bregman.
Neither manager approved.
“He shouldn’t carry the bat past first base,” the Astros’ A.J. Hinch said of Bregman. “Soto shouldn’t carry it to first base, either.”
Said Nationals Manager Dave Martinez: “We didn’t like it. And the fact that Soto did it, I’ll be quite honest with you, I didn’t like it when he did it as well. It’s a conversation I’ll have with Juan. That’s not who we are.”
Bregman apologized after the game — three times.
“I just let my emotions get the best of me,” he said. “It’s not how I was raised to play the game.”
Bregman’s baseball roots run deep, specifically in Washington. His grandfather convinced Bob Short to buy the Senators, his father often sat on Manager Ted Williams’s lap in the clubhouse, and the youngest Bregman grew up hearing stories from both men. With Bregman starring in a Fall Classic against the team from his family’s old stomping grounds, his dad asked him to acquire “like 30 tickets” for his old high school buddies from Bethesda, Md., to show up at Nationals Park. Asked whether they would be cheering for the Astros or the Nationals, Bregman said, “They better be cheering for the Astros if I’m getting the tickets.”
He has been a polarizing figure in this World Series. His regular season — a .296 batting average, a .423 on-base percentage and a .592 slugging percentage — made the 25-year-old an American League MVP candidate, but after he struck out three times in Game 1, Bregman was hard on himself for what he called a “horrible” night and a “terrible” October. The next game, he hit a two-run homer, but later he had a costly error in a seventh inning in which the Nationals scored six runs.
The low point might have been Game 3, when Washington intentionally walked No. 3 hitter Michael Brantley to load the bases and bring Bregman to the plate. It worked: Bregman grounded out, ending Houston’s rally.
Bregman found redemption in Game 4 when he hit a grand slam, restoring some of the swagger that was on full display in Tuesday’s Game 6. It has been that kind of World Series for Bregman: In 27 plate appearances, he has just six hits, but three are home runs.
Asked his thoughts on Soto mimicking his bat carry, Bregman said he “deserved it.”
“It was my fault, and I apologize for doing it,” he added. “I shouldn’t have done it.”
Howie Kendrick admitted that some guys were pretty miffed by Alex Bregman taking his bat to first. He also added that Bregman apologized to a few players on the field during the game. Kendrick kept going back to: "It's just about respecting the game."— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) October 30, 2019
While Soto may not have liked Bregman’s reaction to his home run, Soto isn’t exactly a keeper of baseball’s old school traditions, either. He is criticized in some corners for his “Soto shuffle” during at-bats, when he stares down the pitcher and occasionally mixes in a crotch grab. Some teams might have punished Bregman by hitting him with a pitch, but Soto’s answer was more impactful — a go-ahead homer in the fifth inning that helped guarantee two of baseball’s brightest young stars will see each other again in Game 7.
But the lighthearted, entertaining moment ended in remorse and regret. Asked why that’s the case, especially when there’s a segment of baseball fans who would prefer to see more of that kind of showmanship, Bregman apologized one last time.
“It’s not what I’m about,” he said. “I want to play team baseball and try and help this team win. I just got too excited, and I apologize to their team, my teammates, everybody. I just want to come out and try to help this team win a game tomorrow.”