Astros rookie had been out since Sept. 14 with hamstring injury
By Jordan Ray
HOUSTON -- In a surprising twist to the Astros' come-from-behind, 8-4 win over the Mariners on Tuesday night, Alex Bregman returned to action in the bottom of the sixth and made an immediate impact, hitting a game-tying RBI single off Felix Hernandez in his first Major League appearance as a pinch-hitter.
"That might've been more nerve-wracking than my first at-bat here," Bregman said. "I don't know. It felt weird, but it felt good at the end."
Bregman, who's been recovering from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for two weeks, wasn't listed among the available players for Tuesday's game. In fact, he had a flight booked for Florida to get rehab and instructional league at-bats.
"I don't think he'll make that one," Astros manager A.J. Hinch joked.
But the rookie third baseman made his return in a big way, sending Felix Hernandez's 80.8 mph curveball into shallow center field on a 1-2 count to bring home Yulieski Gurriel and tie the game at 4, after falling 0-2 in the count. Against Hernandez, in at-bats that start 0-2, hitters are batting .176 (19-for-108) with 50 strikeouts this season, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
The hit helped kickstart a game-changing rally for the Astros, who scored six runs -- four with two outs -- off five hits to take a four-run lead on the Mariners. It was a huge moment for the Astros, who are trying to stave off postseason elimination.
"That's a big-time at-bat for him there," right fielder George Springer said. "He's never seen King Felix, and [he] was able to hit a pitch and come up in a big spot for us there."
Bregman, who was named Astros Minor League Player of the Year on Monday, said he "felt great" after running in the outfield, taking ground balls and going through some batting practice Monday afternoon, and he was expected to have another full workday Tuesday.
But no one really expected Bregman's workday to include in-game action. He missed 11 games with the injury.
"I knew that there was a possibility of it," Bregman said, "but we weren't certain. When I went up and got loose in the bottom of the fourth inning, it felt good, and Skip asked if I was ready, and I said, 'Yep.' And that's kind of how it happened."
"We didn't really want to use him," Hinch said. "We really wanted to push this as long as we could and have him do as many workouts [as possible]. He's been bouncing off the walls trying to get back in the game, and he just couldn't hold back his smile with how good he felt."
And while Bregman's outing at Minute Maid Park was limited -- catcher Max Stassi pinch-ran for him at first base -- it was another important step in Bregman's impressive first year in the big leagues.
"It's pretty rough to not be able to go out there and compete with your brothers and to come up like that -- with a hit to tie the game -- was awesome," Bregman said. "It felt great."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.