Since then, Springer has done his part to give his team one more shot at advancing to the World Series. He was the hero on Wednesday, launching the deciding two-run homer to force Game 5. That momentum carried into the first pitch he saw on Thursday, as he smacked it over the left-field wall, setting the tone in the Astros’ 4-3 walk-off victory over the Rays at Petco Park in San Diego.
Not only did Springer’s 19th career postseason homer move him to the top of the Astros’ franchise leaderboard, it tied him with Albert Pujols for fourth on the all-time playoff home runs list. With one more, Springer will move into a tie for third place with Derek Jeter.
“The last two games he’s been outstanding,” Correa said. “He’s been driving the ball, giving us huge hits, the big homer yesterday, big homer today to get things started. He is the guy that we look to when you look at that time. He’s the leadoff guy. When he gets things going man, we’re a scary team.”
It was Correa who delivered the walk-off blast. Along with Springer hitting the first pitch thrown in the bottom of the first for a homer, it marked the first time in playoff history one team had a leadoff homer and walk-off homer in the same game.
Springer gave his team a 1-0 lead with his shot on a 94.5 mph heater over the middle of the plate from Tampa Bay starter John Curtiss that landed in the first deck of the Western Metal Supply Co. building.
“Yeah, that was great,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “They say whoever scores first usually wins like 70 percent of the games. ... Any time you score right away, especially on that first pitch, you know Springer's the king of that.”
The ball exploded off Springer’s bat at 115.8 mph, his second-hardest homer tracked by Statcast. It was just the 10th time on record (and first for Houston) that a home run came on the first pitch a team has seen in a postseason game, dating back to the start of complete pitch-count data in 1988.
“First off, we know how special George Springer is,” teammate Michael Brantley said. “He’s not your prototypical leadoff hitter. We all know that. He can hit the ball out of any ballpark on any given swing. To give us the lead early is always big, especially to score first and put the pressure on them.”
Though no fans are permitted inside Petco Park, players have a few loved ones in the stands, and one particularly special guest made his appearance in the owner’s suite. Third-base coach Gary Pettis, who has been away from the team while being treated for cancer, was sitting beside Houston owner Jim Crane. The Astros had been hanging Pettis’ jersey in the dugout to make sure his presence was with the team.
To have Pettis in the ballpark was something very special for the entire team. And Springer made sure to pay tribute to that by pointing up to his third-base coach as he crossed the plate.
“He’s a big reason we’re here,” Brantley said of Pettis. “We miss him and support him. Just to see his smile and wave meant the world to us. You probably saw how many people looked up and waved at him. We miss him and support him, and it’s always great to see him.”