By CARLOS RODRÍGUEZ Associated Press
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — Alex Bregman played so well in Mexico that he’s already looking forward to a return trip.
Bregman hit a grand slam and the Houston Astros blew out the Los Angeles Angels for the second straight day, 10-4 on Sunday. The Astros third baseman had three home runs and eight RBIs in the two-game series at at Estadio de Beisbol de Monterrey.
“My swing felt good this weekend. It was so much fun to play here. We had a blast,” Bregman said. “It’s a fun place to play with all the fans. It’s a great environment.”
The Astros, who won 14-2 on Saturday, hit eight home runs in the two games in front of pro-Houston crowds. On Sunday, Carlos Correa had a two-run homer in the second inning and Michael Brantley hit a two-run shot in the ninth.
“We have a good offense and the ballpark rewards good contact,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “It got contagious.”
The Astros totaled four runs in losing their previous two games to Minnesota, but everything changed in Monterrey.
“Bregman has quickly become one of the must clutch hitters in the majors,” Hinch said. “He lives for the pressure that comes with big moments. It’s impressive to watch him flip the pressure, and in this ballpark he felt comfortable and hit the ball hard.”
Bregman greeted Cam Bedrosian, who relieved starter Matt Harvey with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth inning, by blasting a 2-0 fastball to the batter’s eye in center field. Harvey (1-3) was charged with five runs on five hits.
Justin Verlander (5-1) allowed homers in each of the first two innings but rebounded with four scoreless frames. He was lifted with one out in the seventh after Jonathan Lucroy took him deep for the second time.
Lucroy also had a two-run homer in the second. It was his ninth career multi-homer game, his first since 2016.
Verlander allowed four runs and struck out seven, giving up three homers in a game for the first time since last August.
“As good as this ballpark is for the hitters, it’s the opposite for a pitcher, and JV came into the game with anxiety, but he got a little bit better as he finished his outing,” Hinch said. “I’m happy for him considering the anxiety that he felt coming into the game.”
David Fletcher also homered for the Angels, who had won six of seven before everything went wrong in Mexico.
Robinson Chirinos had an RBI double in the seventh for the Astros, and José Altuve had a run-scoring double in the ninth.
The regular-season games in Mexico were the first for both teams. Major League Baseball has committed to bringing games south of the border through 2021.
Bregman hopes the Astros are considered for a return trip, and he joked about joining the Sultanes of the Mexican League so that he can play in Monterrey again.
“Everything was incredible, the fans, the stadium, everything was first class. I loved Mexico so much and hopefully we could come back in the future,” Bregman said. “It would be fun to play winter ball here, but I’m not sure that the Astros would allow that.”
ALTUVE GIVES BACK
Altuve, who’s from Venezuela, said he had been sending aid to his home country amid a political crisis.
“There are several areas where help is needed in Venezuela, like medicines, food and education, and you have to choose where do you want to help,” Altuve said. “I decided to help with food because there are a lot of kids who don’t have anything to eat and they every day wake up with hunger, so I made a huge donation.”
Altuve did not provide further details about his contribution.
According to the United Nations, 1.9 million people in Venezuela are in need of food assistance, including 1.3 million children.
CORREA SOAKS IT IN
Correa arrived at the stadium about four hours before the first pitch to record a game introduction in Spanish and then had fun using the public-address system to mock Altuve, who was doing interviews on the field.
Before the game, Correa exchanged jerseys and had a chat with soccer star André-Pierre Gignac, who threw the ceremonial first pitch.
NOT QUITE YET
Albert Pujols went 0-4 with two strikeouts and remained at 1,999 career RBIs. He’ll get another shot 2,000 — a milestone reached by only four major league players — on Monday.
Angels: RHP Griffin Canning (0-0, 6.23 ERA) will make will his second career start on Tuesday at Detroit. Canning allowed four hits and three earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays on April 30.
Astros: RHP Gerritt Cole (2-4, 3.95) starts on Monday as Houston returns home to face Kansas City. Cole got his second win of the season with a dominant performance against the Twins on April 30, allowing one hit over seven innings with 11 strikeouts.
By CARLOS RODRÍGUEZ Associated Press