HOUSTON -- So this is what it’s like when George Springer becomes one of the most dangerous hitters in the Major Leagues.
Springer has thrust himself into the race for the American League Most Valuable Player Award at roughly the quarter mark of the season, accentuated by a monster performance in the Astros’ 15-5 wipeout of the Rangers on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros polished off a dominating four-game sweep of the Rangers by outscoring them 33-11 behind Springer, who went 5-for-5 with two homers, four RBIs and five runs scored in the finale, becoming the first player in franchise history to have five hits and five runs scored in the same game.
“It’s pretty special,” Springer said. “There’s some great, extraordinary players to come through this organization, so I’m happy to do it. I’m happy to help us win. With me scoring runs, it means the guys behind me did their job as well.”
“It’s one of those things where hitting is extremely contagious,” Springer said. “A guy sees somebody else get a knock and then he wants to get a knock, and the next guy wants to get one. The guys today did a great job passing the baton on and not trying to do too much and getting the next guy up to the plate.”
Springer is slashing .321/.400/.660 this season with nine doubles, 15 homers and 37 RBIs in 41 games. During the Astros’ five-game winning streak, he’s slashing .550/.565/1.200 with four homers and seven RBIs.
“He’s in a really good place physically and in his preparation-wise,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “He’s getting pitches to hit and not missing them, so he’s in the at-bats. He’s taking close pitches and doing a ton of damage. It’s so exciting when he’s at the top of the order doing this stuff. From the very beginning of the game, as we saw today, the potential for damage is one thing -- the big hits, the knockout punch of the game with the homer. He’s a star.”
Springer’s assault on opposing pitchers was only the beginning of what the Astros were able to enjoy offensively Sunday:
Bregman snapped out a 3-for-18 rut by going 3-for-5 with a two-run homer in the second and a three-run homer in the fifth for a career-high-tying five RBIs. He has six homers and 17 RBIs in his last 10 games, with two multihomer games in that stretch. Bregman has reached base in 23 consecutive games.
“I’m happy to be able to contribute to help us win,” he said. “We had a great homestand, a lot of wins and we’re moving in the right direction. I was super excited to see Springer go off today. That’s what so great about this team is the other night we hit three solo homers -- 7-8-9 in the order. I’m just happy to be able to contribute and help us win games.”
Despite hitting in the leadoff spot, Springer was routinely batting with a man on base Sunday thanks to Kemp, who went 3-for-5 with a triple and three runs scored in the No. 9 spot in the order. Kemp tripled with two outs in the second and was driven home by a Springer single, and he scored on an error in the fourth and on Bregman’s homer in the fifth.
“This is a really good offense and when we put up at-bats like that, it’s really tough to get through,” Hinch said. “When you put up that many hits and that many runs, it takes a little bit of everybody.”
In winning eight of their last nine games, the Astros are averaging 8.2 runs per game, including 2.9 home runs per game. They reached double-digit hits six times in those nine games. They’re hitting .325 with runners in scoring position in that span, which was an issue earlier in the year.
“We’re playing well,” Hinch said. “Honestly, I think the defense is what stands out. I know it’s easy to talk about offense today, but when we play good defense and we hit and we pitch, we feel good about ourselves.”