Springer's 2 HRs help Astros reach milestone
HOUSTON -- In what may have been his final game at Minute Maid Park in an Astros uniform, outfielder George Springer provided a couple more memories for Houston fans, even if they weren’t able to see it in person.
Springer, who's been the source of many huge moments in recent seasons, hit an inside-the-park homer in the sixth inning and a game-tying homer in the seventh, setting the stage for Carlos Correa to drive in the winning run with an eighth-inning sacrifice fly for a 3-2 win over the D-backs on Sunday afternoon.
Springer’s second home run was the 2,000th recorded by the Astros at Minute Maid Park (postseason included), which opened in 2000.
Houston wrapped up the home portion of its regular-season schedule and may not play at Minute Maid Park again in 2020 (the top four seeds will host games in the Wild Card Series; the Astros are currently No. 6 in the American League). In addition to Springer, it could have been the final home game at the ballpark for Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel, who are also set to become free agents this offseason.
“I certainly hope we get to the point where [Springer] puts enough pressure on the Astros to sign him,” manager Dusty Baker said. “This guy is a heck of a player and I think his best years are still ahead of him, and this ballpark is perfect for him.”
Springer, 31, isn’t thinking about any of that now with the Astros still pushing for a playoff spot.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it,” Springer said
About that postseason push. The Astros (27-26) have a four-game lead over the Mariners for second place in the AL West (which brings a guaranteed playoff berth in the expanded 16-team postseason). Houston has a magic number of three to clinch a spot in the playoffs, and it will now head to Seattle for a three-game series beginning Monday.
“This is a big series,” Baker said. “You never thought you’d be saying that when they're here earlier. I think we’re ready.”
Springer’s homers came in his final two at-bats. His inside-the-park home run put the Astros on the board in the sixth and his two-out solo homer in the seventh tied the game at 2. He became the third player in franchise history to have an inside-the-park homer and a regular homer in the same game, joining Ken Caminiti (twice) and Jimmy Wynn.
“Georgie is coming on strong,” Baker said. “He’s certainly finding his stride at the right time.”
Springer’s second homer was the 173rd of his career, which ranks fifth on the Astros’ all-time list behind Jeff Bagwell (449), Lance Berkman (326), Craig Biggio (291) and Wynn (223). Springer’s 79 regular-season home runs at Minute Maid Park are tied with Biggio for third most.
Springer pumped his fist as he rounded first base after tying the game.
“I was just excited to tie the game there,” Springer said. “Just happy to help. I don’t really know how to explain it other than that. A big moment for us to tie the game here, to give us a chance to not play from behind.”
Springer, who was selected by Houston in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of UConn, blossomed into a star in Houston with his combination of speed and power. He made his Major League debut in 2014, as the rebuilding Astros were emerging from the shadows of three consecutive 100-loss seasons, and he became a cornerstone of a franchise on the rise. That culminated with him winning the Most Valuable Player Award of the 2017 World Series.
While the Astros have struggled to score runs this September -- they’re hitting .217 as a team this month and averaging 3.7 runs per game -- Springer is slashing .333/.368/.722 with eight homers and 11 RBIs in his past 18 games.
“I like where our mentality is,” Springer said. “There are seven games left, I believe, and it’s time to go. Just go out and play as hard as you possibly can every day until the last.”