George Springer delivers game-winning moments. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
George Springer keeps battling no matter what's happening during the game. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
George Springer knows that to seize the moment you have to take time to enjoy it. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge are two of the main players who will decide who wins the American League. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Michael Brantley is fitting right in with this Houston Astros' lineup. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve's health is back — and so is his power. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Alex Bregman left the game with a right leg injury. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Josh Reddick made the most of his dad's advice. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
George Springer loves to hit in the most clutch situations. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve celebrated another big Astros moment. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Aaron Judge brings plenty of power to the Yankees lineup. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve is the clear leader of one of baseball's most elite teams. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Michael Brantley has one of the smoothest swings in all of baseball. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa and George Springer know it's good to be Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve never imagined he'd hit 100 home runs in the Major Leagues. But he's just getting started in some ways. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell took in the action. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
George Springer feels the moment like Marie Kondo sparks joy. It’s just his thing.
It does not matter how bad everything might have gone for Springer earlier in the game (two strikeouts in this case). It does not even seem to matter who is on the mound. It only matters that the game is on the line, that the tension is rising, and a ballpark’s on edge.
This is Springer’s time. He comes through time and time again, much more often than the simple odds of his .266 career batting average says he should. When they handed out the clutch gene, George Chelston Springer III must have stood in line for seconds. And thirds.
“That’s why you play the game,” Springer says of at-bats with the game in the balance. “You always have to slow yourself down. You kind of have to enjoy the moment because you never know if you’re ever going to get back to that moment.”
Springer keeps getting back to the moment for the Houston Astros — and he keeps coming through. He does it again Tuesday night, ripping a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning to yank another game away from the New York Yankees and that supposed to be indestructible bullpen.
“Every time he’s on home plate hitting, I get the feeling something amazing is going to happen,” Astros lifeline Jose Altuve says of Springer. “He’s a great player and I love the way he plays.”
Baseball’s analytics masters — the men who control the game today — largely hate the idea that certain players are clutch, of course. But just try explaining George Springer any other way. The 2017 World Series MVP seizes moments with an eagerness that would make the most dedicated carpe diem devotee swoon with appreciation.
Springer homers on Opening Day, one of baseball’s biggest days, like it’s a habit. He collects huge moments like Khloe Kardashian collects NBA players.
There is something special about Springer’s approach when the pressure reaches its peak. His teammates see it. There is a reason Altuve feels all warm and fuzzy whenever George Springer is at the plate with a chance to win the game.
Springer’s latest bit of clutch brilliance, lifts the Astros to a 6-3 win that defies the mantra that April baseball is meaningless. Try telling that to Aaron Boone’s team, which has seen its vaunted bullpen beaten by the team that increasingly haunts it in two straight nights. Try telling that to the Astros, who are starting to look like what everyone thought they were.
One of the very best teams in baseball, one that can drive another one of the only true contenders in the American League absolutely batty.
“I think that’s what makes this team special,” new Astro Michael Brantley tells PaperCity. “That fight and belief that we’re going to come back. There’s a confidence.”
The 31-year-old Brantley was part of a powerful Cleveland Indians lineup for years, but he sees something different with these Astros, who just keep coming and coming, one determined hitter feeding off another.
Father Knows Best
The Astros bang out 11 hits against the Yankees, three for Brantley, who seems to fall out of bed swinging smooth; two for Altuve, who’s looking MVP healthy again; and two for Reddick, who uses a talk with his dad to settle his mind and his batting stroke.
“Today was a big adjustment for me after coming out and kind of jumping at the ball,” Reddick tells PaperCity amid the happy music of a winning clubhouse. “I’ve been working with (Astros hitting coach) Alex (Cintron) a lot. And I talked to my dad a little bit today because who knows my swing better than my father?
“He made sure he got me right and I made sure I made that adjustment in the cage with as many swings as it took. And it really showed today.”
Reddick talks with his dad about his swing every day. Kenny Reddick isn’t shy about communicating either.
“I’ll come in after a game and there will be about three or four text messages on my phone from my dad watching already,” Reddick says. “He has no shame in telling me how he feels or how to get it right.”
The Astros are more than getting it right, having erased the memory of that 2-5 start with a perfect 5-0 beginning to their home schedule. Houston hasn’t lost a game since Alex Bregman declared that their season was restarting with the home opener. To make it 6-0 and sweep the Yankees, the Astros will have to do it without Bregman, who hurt his right hamstring late in the latest win and is expected to be out for at least Wednesday’s game and possibly more.
If any team is built to withstand a star’s absence, it’s these Astros. Especially when Jose Altuve is hitting like this, like his 2017 MVP self.
Altuve homers for the second time in two games against the Yankees, hitting a 96 MPH Jonathan Loaisiga fastball off the top of the Landry’s Crawford Boxes sign. Altuve is tattooing baseballs again, pitcher and park no matter.
Even though he won the 2017 American League MVP, Altuve still seems to too often be underestimated. He’s seldom mentioned nationally among baseball’s most feared hitters — and never seems to make those current MVP candidate hot lists. Yet, he only continues to rake and drive these Astros.
“He’s definitely not underappreciated in this clubhouse,” Reddick says. “He’s definitely one of our highly praised guys in here because of who is is and what he’s done for this team and this community. He’s been MVP, several times he’s done spectacular things.
“… He’s been a great leader in this clubhouse and a very soft spoken leader at that. But he’s one of the better ones you can have around to be that leader.”
It’s no coincidence that with Altuve playing on one leg last October, the Astros found much of their mojo sapped.
Now, after undergoing right knee surgery in the offseason, Altuve is doing Altuve things again — and all is right with the Astros world.
Even if Altuve would rather just watch George Springer hit with a game on the line. Springer swings with the bases loaded and Minute Maid is rocking (and all those once vocal Yankees fans are suddenly seemingly fading into their seats).
A.J. Hinch’s Astros are rolling again, winning games in bunches, grabbing the biggest moments, and having fun along the way. When Tony Kemp falls down halfway between third and home on that Springer double, only to somehow still get back to third safely (partly through crawling) and score a batter later, his teammates are rolling in the dugout. In a different way.
“I just asked him if there was a sniper out there somewhere,” Springer cracks. “And he said he was up in the rafters.”
Springer grins as he turns to leave the clubhouse. It’s never a bad time to grab a moment.