The Astros struggled to get a timely hit through the first three games of the American League Championship Series. And after the Rays erased Houston’s early lead once again Wednesday night in Game 4, the Astros desperately needed a spark.
George Springer had done it plenty of times before in October, and he did it once again.
With the Astros facing elimination, Springer delivered the deciding two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning, lifting Houston to a 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay at Petco Park to force a Game 5 on Thursday. It marked his sixth go-ahead blast in his postseason career. Only seven players in Major League postseason history have hit more home runs to give their team a lead.
“Just try to slow the game down,” Springer said of his approach. “Understand that each pitch, each swing is obviously going to be something different and, honestly, whatever happens, happens.”
Springer turned on a 98.7 mph fastball from Rays starter Tyler Glasnow that was just above the strike zone over the middle of the plate and launched it into the fourth deck of the Western Metal Supply Co. building down the left-field line.
“Glas attacked him exactly the way that he wanted to, we wanted to,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “And he got a pitch out over [the plate], and Springer hit it a long way for the big home run, the deciding home run.”
Springer could finally exhale. One of Houston’s most reliable bats had gone quiet during the first three games of the series, hitting .143 with a .343 OPS, but it was more because of poor luck than poor performance. Frustration was building for Springer, as he recorded three hard-hit balls over the three-game span but none were able to find a hole. It wasn’t until his breakout 3-for-4 night at the plate on Wednesday that he was finally able to see some results.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating to hit the ball hard in general and have a guy be there,” Springer said. “But you know what? That’s the game. I got to do better at kind of not showing a lot of frustration because it really is part of the game. You know, sometimes I’m going to get jammed and I’m going to sneak it in there, and there’s other times we’re going to hit one hard and be out. It kind of is what it is, and I’m happy to help us today.”
Springer and teammate Jose Altuve continue to fight for the top spot on the Astros’ all-time postseason home run leaderboard. After Altuve briefly took the lead by hitting his 18th career playoff homer in the first inning, Springer matched him with his long ball in the fifth. The two are tied for fifth all time in the postseason with Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle.
Could that be his last big impression he leaves on his squad? Springer will hope to be able to provide some more magic in another potential elimination game on Thursday, but with his free agency looming, it’s difficult for the outfielder to know when any game with Houston could be his last.
Though he said he’s not allowing himself to think about the end of his time with the Astros, he’s still savoring the moments of attempting to make at least one more run.
“It’s special,” Springer said. “I’ve played with all these guys pretty much my whole career. To go out there and grind every single day, to keep putting up good quality at-bats, keep fighting every day has been something special. At the end of the day, whatever happens, happens.”