Bregman homers for 2nd straight day, Astros beat A’s again

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Alex Bregman hit a three-run homer for his second longball in two games, and the Houston Astros slugged past the Oakland Athletics 9-5 on Friday night.

Yuli Gurriel also connected and Michael Brantley added a run-scoring double as Houston jumped out to a big lead again – a night after the Astros won the opener 8-1 behind Zack Greinke‘s six shutout innings.

Kyle Tucker hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh as Houston added an insurance run – and it was an important one, as Chad Pinder connected for a two-run homer in the bottom half.

Houston’s Jose Altuve reached base in all five of his plate appearances, with three hits and two walks.

“Well Altuve’s obviously hot. The guy behind him is even hotter,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Brantley, who had three hits for the second straight game.

The Astros have scored 17 runs in their first two games.

“I feel really good. The only thing I’m trying to do right now is get on base,” Altuve said. “Obviously I have great hitters behind me … I feel I need to get on base and let them do the rest.”

Left-hander Jesus Luzardo (0-1) struck out eight with one walk over five innings, surrendering the two homers among his eight hits and five runs.

Astros righty Cristian Javier, a five-game winner last year in his first big league season, didn’t allow a hit until Mark Cahna’s infield single before Ramon Laureano followed with an RBI triple to put Oakland on the board.

Laureano later suffered a jammed left wrist diving into first. X-rays showed no structural problems. Catcher Sean Murphy was a late scratch because of a bruised right hand.

Bryan Abreu (1-0) pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief for the win.

Not a bad first couple of games for Houston.

“These young guys are stepping up. This is what you want to see,” manager Dusty Baker said.

Mitch Moreland added a sacrifice fly for his first RBI since joining the A’s on a $2.25 million, one-year contract.

MELVIN FUTURE

Melvin has a contract option for 2022 and, no surprise, insists he wants to stay put.

“I have no desire to go anywhere else,” Melvin said. “I’m perfectly happy here and my bosses have taken good care of me here. So that’s where I stand on it. It’s not my job to pick up an option, it’s the people above me, but I’m really happy here.”

This week, general manager David Forst said: “His option at this point is more a function of what he wants to do rather than what we want.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: C Jason Castro will earn a start behind the plate Sunday as Martin Maldonado gets a rest day. “Maldy needs a break before we go to Anaheim,” said Baker, who noted Maldonado has ample experience with Saturday starter Lance McCullers Jr.

Athletics: RHP Frankie Montas is on track to start Monday against the World Series champion Dodgers after leaving his final spring training start March 25 with a ripped cuticle on his right middle finger. He was scheduled to throw one more bullpen session Friday. “Everything’s looking as a go,” Melvin said. “… I looked at the nail, I’m not a doctor, but it looks good to me so I think we’re a full go on him.” … RHP Mike Fiers, on the 10-day injured list retroactive to Monday with a lower back strain, is likely to do his next throwing session soon at the team’s Stockton alternate site.

UP NEXT

RHP McCullers pitches for the Astros on Saturday opposite LHP Cole Irvin making his A’s debut after pitching the past two seasons for the Phillies.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.