CLEVELAND -- If the Astros are to repeat as World Series champs, they will also need repeat performances from several old reliables who got them that far into the postseason this time last year.Fittingly, the 2017 World Series Most Valuable Player is at the top of that list, and though
CLEVELAND -- If the Astros are to repeat as World Series champs, they will also need repeat performances from several old reliables who got them that far into the postseason this time last year.
Fittingly, the 2017 World Series Most Valuable Player is at the top of that list, and though it's still early in the postseason, he's already delivering.
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Though he's one of several Houston hitters battling nagging aches and pains, George Springer has become otherworldly in the playoffs. His recent heroics not only helped the Astros sweep the Indians on Monday afternoon, but they also etched his name in the record books with some of the greatest postseason performers of all-time.
"He's Super Springer," Marwin Gonzalez said, concisely, following the Astros' decisive 11-3 win over the Indians in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
Springer hit three homers in the final two games of Houston's sweep, including two in the finale. He tied the game at 1-1 with a solo homer off Mike Clevinger in the top of the fifth, and he extended the Astros' lead to 5-2 with another solo shot off Cody Allen in the eighth.
The historic part of his day arrived following the second homer. Springer now has eight long balls in his past nine postseason games, tying him with Reggie Jackson, Jim Thome and his former teammate, Carlos Beltran, for the most over such a stretch.
And Springer has 10 career postseason homers, two more than Beltran and Jose Altuve, a new mark in Astros history.
Springer may not have had all of this information at his disposal when he was fielding questions in a champagne-and-beer soaked visitors' clubhouse at Progressive Field following the win, so when trying to explain why he's so good in October, he opted to keep it simple.
"I just think it's one of those times where the lights get brighter, the stage gets a little bigger and I think guys tend to concentrate more," he said.
Springer said he was a "little reserved" in his first two at-bats Monday, which resulted in strikeouts. Then he simplified his approach.
"It's hard to hit in this league behind in the count," Springer said. "So I just told myself to go get something to hit, and hit it hard. And then, honestly, I don't know. I was just trying to hit the ball hard, and whatever happens, happens."
Heading into this series, the unknowns were plentiful -- not just with Springer, but with several hitters who missed time this season with injury. A sprained left thumb sidelined Springer, officially, for a couple of weeks in August. But the discomfort lingered longer than the disabled list stint.
He struggled after returning from the DL on Aug. 17, hitting just three home runs in the final six weeks of the regular season.
Then, October arrived.
"I said this to our team in there -- special teams do special things in October," manager AJ Hinch said. "And I believe that about players. George is one of them. We've seen him come up as an uber prospect, produce at an uncanny level, hit the lowest of the lows in the World Series and then be the World Series MVP. I don't think this should surprise anyone. He's a really special player."
That sentiment was repeated numerous times throughout the clubhouse celebration, though some had more creative ways to express how much they've grown to expect -- and respect -- Springer's October output.
"Conor McGregor said when he beat Nate Diaz in the Octagon," said Alex Bregman, the team's unofficial keeper of all things pop culture. "'I'm not surprised.' I'm not surprised.'"
The Astros' ability to sweep the series could prove helpful as the postseason progresses. Not only does it give them a chance to reset their rotation, but it also enables some of those hobbling hitters to rest for a few days before the AL Championship Series begins Saturday.
Springer, it appears, will be ready.
"I don't care how hurt you are, how hurt I am," he said. "This is all about the team, and you have to do whatever you have to do to play the nine-plus innings, for as long as it takes. I'm happy to be out there. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure I stay out there."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.