HOUSTON -- George Springer came back to the dugout after the top of the seventh overwhelmed with emotions. Had he just cost his team a chance to seize control of the World Series with what he termed "a bad decision" in center field?
Springer had attempted a diving catch on Cody Bellinger's line drive, only to have the ball get past him and roll all the way to the warning track. Enrique Hernandez scored from first base on the play, giving the Dodgers a one-run lead.
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"That's about as low to about as high as you can probably feel," Springer said after the Astros' 13-12 Game 5 victory in 10 innings Sunday at Minute Maid Park. "I made a bad decision. I tried to make a play but ultimately, I should have stopped."
Springer was set up extremely deep during Bellinger's at-bat, standing 341 feet away from the plate. To put that in perspective, that's nearly 20 feet further than center fielders played against Bellinger during the regular season and more than 25 feet deeper than Springer's standard positioning. In a no-doubles defense, Springer admitted that he probably should have let the ball fall in front of him for a single, which would have prevented Hernandez from scoring the go-ahead run.
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"I thought I could make a play; I didn't," Springer said. "It's a very lonely feeling to know that I made a bad decision. I'll own up to it."
When Springer returned to the dugout, he was met by manager A.J. Hinch, bench coach Alex Cora and third-base coach Gary Pettis, who all delivered the same encouraging message to the 28-year-old Springer.
"It's over," they told Springer. "Just go have a good, quality at-bat and we'll see what happens."
What happened was the ultimate atonement for Springer's poor judgment. He stepped up against Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow and unleashed a big swing on a 95-mph sinker, launching the first pitch of the inning into the left-field seats.
"That was a very angry swing," Springer said. "I honestly was just trying to get to first base. I was upset at a bad decision I had made and was just fortunate enough to square it up."
How angry, exactly? Springer's homer clocked in at 111.9 mph and traveled a projected 448 feet, according to Statcast™. That made it both the second-hardest and second-longest homer of this postseason.
"To come out and to tie it, that's a feeling that I don't think I can ever describe," said Springer, who is 7-for-17 (.412) with three home runs over his past four games after going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Game 1. "There were so many things that happened in this game that make you, as a player, go crazy. There were so many moments on each side. This is the stuff you live for."
Hinch barely had time to process Springer's fielding gaffe before he watched his player redeem himself with the game-tying home run.
"I've been in the game a long time, I don't think I've seen someone remedy a mistake faster than what Springer did tonight," Hinch said. "He dove, he tried to make an athletic play, small desperation, trying to keep his body in front of it if he could somehow not catch it. And then it feels like the worst feeling in the world; he feels like he made the mistake of a lifetime. And one pitch later, he hits a homer.
"A lot of energy put back into the building, certainly in George. We trust George every step along the way. For him to be able to deliver, make up for the judgment that he made in center is, again, one of the hundred stories you guys can write about."
Alex Bregman, who delivered the game-winning hit in the 10th inning, marveled at Springer's ability to bounce back, both from his Game 1 strikeout-fest (he hit the game-winning two-run homer in the 11th inning in Game 2) and his poor decision-making in center field in Game 5.
"He starts off the Series by going 0-4, four strikeouts; then gets back up and kills it, hits a game-winning homer for us," Bregman said. "Then today we have a tie game, and he lays out in center field and misses a ball, being aggressive for it. And something about him that when he gets knocked down, he gets back up, because the first pitch of the next inning he hit out of the yard and it got us going."
Springer said he planned to sleep as much as he could before Game 6, but he and his teammates will be ready to go Tuesday in Los Angeles as they try to make history.
"It's just good to get out of here with a win," Springer said. "To go back there, it's not an easy place to play, but we're giving the ball to Justin Verlander. That's going to be awesome for us. For us to play this long and fight this hard, to scrap for this long and to come out with this one, it's a very, very good feeling."
And for Springer, a story of redemption.