HOUSTON -- Close games are the best ones to analyze. Close losses invite even more scrutiny.
So it's only fair to wonder if Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday could have turned out different if George Springer had busted it out of the box on his RBI double.
In a 5-4 loss, it's worth examining.
Kyle Tucker, pinch-hitting for Martín Maldonado, led off that frame with a single, and wound up on second after tagging on Aledmys Díaz's long fly ball to deep center. Springer, who already had extended his club record with his 14th postseason homer with a leadoff shot in the seventh, connected again in the eighth, sending a Daniel Hudson offering to the crevice that separates the corner of Houston's bullpen from the seats in right-center.
Springer took four hops out of the box, tracked the ball and took off sprinting when Adam Eaton leaped into the bullpen fencing but couldn’t corral the ball, which missed being a home run by less than a foot. Tucker scored and Springer ended up on second. The question is -- should he have been on third?
By Springer's estimation, the answer was no. He was watching Eaton track the ball, but with Tucker on second, waiting to see if the ball was caught, Springer envisioned a possible scenario where he could have caught Tucker on the basepaths, and possibly passed him.
"If he tags, or whatever the case, and I run by him, it's not good," Springer said. "I was watching the outfielder. He made an incredible bid on it. I'm lucky right there. I can't go to third right there because the guy on second [Tucker] had gone back to tag."
Had he gone to third, "I'm out for sure," Springer added.
Per Statcast, Springer went from home to first in 6.59 seconds, his second-slowest time to first base this season, on any ball that was not a homer or an out. The 10.06 seconds to second was his second-slowest time on any double this year, and the other was one that went to the left-field corner and he let up.
The next two plays were fly-ball outs, including one moderately hit by José Altuve, which could have been a game-tying sacrifice fly in a more favorable situation.
The Astros wound up stranding 11 runners on base in the one-run loss. The last team to leave that many runners on base in a nine-inning World Series game and lose by one run was the Yankees, in Game 4 of the 1981 Fall Classic with the Dodgers. Twelve were stranded in that game.
The counterargument, of course, is that Houston would not have been in sniffing distance from taking the lead if not for its star leadoff hitter, who had two walks in addition to the two late-game hits in Game 1. Springer now has homered in five consecutive World Series games, a Major League record. Reggie Jackson and Lou Gehrig held the previous mark of four.
"I'd rather win," Springer said. "I don't really care. Cool, great, yeah. But I'd rather win."
Still, Springer continues to prove to be a postseason spark plug. Game 1 marked his third straight World Series contest with at least two-extra base hits, the most of any Astro in team history.
Springer also has 10 career extra-base hits in the Fall Classic, matching Lou Brock for the most by a leadoff hitter in World Series history. His slugging percentage across eight World Series contests is 1.094.
And to think, Springer was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in his first World Series game in 2017 -- the year he was eventually named the MVP of the whole thing.
"I told them in the dugout we need to play in the World Series more often, because he hits homers every single time it feels like," manager AJ Hinch said. "He's off to a really good start. His first game in the last World Series maybe not so much, but he's picking up right where he left off."