By George, Astros have won six straight
HOUSTON -- A few differently colored Astros shirts and one jersey from the University of Connecticut -- his alma mater -- were hanging in George Springer's locker. There was no sign of a cape, which really does little to diminish his superhero-like performance of the past week.
Springer added to his legend on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park by clubbing his seventh home run in as many games -- a two-run shot in the seventh inning that snapped a 1-1 tie -- to send the Astros to their sixth consecutive win, 3-1, over the Orioles.
"I was screaming at it," Springer said. "I was just saying, 'Go, go, go!' and it went. Thank you, baseball."
The homer was Springer's 10th, and all have come in May to extend his Astros rookie record for homers in the month. He's tied for third in Major League history for homers in May by a rookie. Mark McGwire holds the record, 15, set in 1987 with the A's.
According to Elias, Springer is the second rookie since 1900 to hit seven homers in a seven-game span, following the Tigers' Rudy York in 1937.
"What a guy," manager Bo Porter said. "It's been pretty impressive. Tell you what, it's fun to watch. It's almost must-see TV."
Behind Springer's outburst, the Astros improved to 14-13 in May with their 12th win in their past 18 games. It's the first time since 2008 they've won 14 games in the month.
Josh Fields (1-3) threw two scoreless innings, striking out three, for his first win of the season, and Chad Qualls worked a scoreless ninth for his fourth save. The Astros' bullpen has a 1.22 ERA over the last 16 games.
"I'm just happy to help us win," Springer said. "The whole team has been playing great. We're throwing, we're hitting. The ball gets hit in the field, and it's getting caught. I'm happy to help us."
Porter was asked if he's ever seen such a streak.
"I was in Washington when [Bryce] Harper broke in, I witnessed a young Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez [with the Marlins]," he said. "It's pretty impressive what it is he's able to do."
Springer, as usual, gave most of the credit to Jose Altuve, who probably does deserve quite a bit. Hitting immediately ahead of Springer, Altuve went 3-for-4 to reach 76 hits, the most by an Astros player by the end of May since Lance Berkman recorded 79 in 2008. Altuve is hitting .404 in his last 21 games and is making a habit of scoring on Springer homers.
"He's always on base, and with him on base, I understand that he's a threat, and with him on base, if they miss, I have to hit it," said Springer, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
The score was tied at 1 in the seventh when Altuve hit a one-out single off reliever Preston Guilmet, giving him a Major League-leading 23 multihit games. Altuve swiped his American League-best 19th base before Springer shot a 3-2 line drive into the first row of the Crawford Boxes to put the Astros ahead, 3-1.
"He's swinging a hot bat right now for sure," Guilmet said. "I just left a pitch up. and he put a good swing on it."
Springer's homer was the Astros' only hit with runners in scoring position, as the offense was held to five hits, snapping its streak of five consecutive games with at least double-digit hits. Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez took a no-decision after allowing three hits and one run in six innings.
"It's not always going to click together," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "You're hoping one part of the game is good enough to offset the others, and we have [had that] for the most part. I have a lot of confidence that our best baseball is ahead of us. Tonight we just didn't swing the bats well enough. Ubaldo deserved a better fate."
Astros right-hander Brad Peacock, pitching for the first time May 18 after dealing with soreness in his right forearm, turned in another strong start. He held the Orioles to one run and six hits while striking out eight in six innings and didn't walk a batter.
"It feels great," Peacock said. "Just went out there, I wasn't scared, threw my fastball, kept the ball down, these guys made some good plays, and Springer came up with that big homer and the team got the win. That's all you can ask for."
As for the hero, catcher Jason Castro says that he can see Springer's confidence growing game by game.
"He's getting settled into his role," Castro said. "It think it's most apparent -- not only in his production, obviously, but the way he's kind of adjusted to not chasing as much, taking more pitches in chances where guys are trying to make him chase and swing at stuff outside the zone. I think when he first game up, he was trying to hit a home run every time up and impress everybody, then once he kind of started to relax and trust his stuff, he's a hitting a home run every time up."