Culture / Sporting Life

George Springer and his Sister Sweetly Share the Most Magical World Series Home Run

Assuming Victory, the Dodgers Get Stunned by Astros’ Never-Die Grit

BY // 10.26.17

LOS ANGELES — An epic game needs an epic hero and there’s George Springer striding to the plate in the top of the 11th and taking his swing. The guy who struck out four times just the night before, the guy everyone but his manager wanted to move down in the lineup, sends a baseball skyrocketing into the stands, right into the heart of all those screaming Los Angeles Dodgers fans.

The Houston Astros will win their first World Series game ever in the most ridiculous World Series game ever. They’ll win it because they absolutely refuse to give up, give in or give way. All of Los Angeles is already all but planning the most hellacious victory parade ever when the Dodgers take a 3-1 lead into the eighth inning of Game 2. But these Astros aren’t going anywhere.

Astros 7, Dodgers 6. In 11 rollercoaster innings. With an offensive explosion for the ages.

The Astros score six runs from the eighth inning on, putting their grit on display for a national audience — and a stunned Dodger Stadium one.

“We’re not in awe of anyone,” Astros outfielder Cameron Maybin, who stole second before Springer’s bomb, says in a giddy Astros clubhouse.

Houston’s in awe of this team. Just when you think these Astros cannot surprise us anymore, they come back again and again and again to win a World Series game that will be talked about for a long time. Make that forever if Houston comes back and wins this series.

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“That’s an instant classic,” Astros ace Justin Verlander says.

“That kind of gets our mojo back,” Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel says. “We’re going to have a little fun tonight.”

It will be hard to top the fun they enjoyed in Dodger Stadium. From down 3-1 and looking dead to up 5-3 to tied 5-5 to up 7-5 to winning 7-6. This game has more plot twists than an entire season of Mr. Robot. When the Dodgers come back to tie it a 5-5 in the bottom of the 10th inning, with Astros closer Ken Giles blowing the most important lead he’s ever been handed, a lesser team folds.

Even great teams sometimes can’t recover from that type of blow. The Astros get their hearts ripped out — and come back for more. This Houston team never gives up, much like the city it calls home.

There is Springer capping off his 3-for-5 night with the most redemptive home run swing ever. “That’s big time,” Astros MVP force Jose Altuve says. “That’s why George is one of the best players in the league.”

For much of this postseason ,Springer hasn’t been that player at the plate. He hasn’t been himself. Until Astros manager A.J. Hinch relieves the burden after that golden sombrero four strikeout Game 1 by telling the world that he’s sticking with Springer.

“It’s huge,” Springer says. “Obviously didn’t have the best game last night. And as a player you tend to know it. And you press. And you want to do things you can’t do. And for him to have my back and to say, ‘Hey, you’re still going to hit first, and you’re still going to set the tone for us,’ it slowed me down…

“For him to have my back, it means the world to me.”

Springer’s dinger sets off a torrent of emotions. His sister Lena’s tweet just about captures it all:

It’s that kind of night for the Astros, a glorious ride that leaves you scared to look for huge chunks of this four hour and 19 minute marathon of a game — and exhilarated at the same time. “I almost fainted I think three times,” Verlander says. “I’m not even joking.”

So many big moments. So many stomach-churning ones. So many grind-it-out heroes.

Jose Altuve sticks out his tongue on one of the home runs that changes everything for the Houston Astros, like a little kid who’s spoiled the biggest party in the world. Or like one Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Altuve’s shot breaks a 3-3 tie in the top of the 10th, squashing a rare nightmarish 0-for-5 day at the plate for him. “Oh, I forgot about that,” Altuve grins when asked about his earlier at-bats.

From left for dead to the longball kings. From down 3-1 in the eighth inning to the best bullpen in baseball for the second straight game to eventual epic 7-6 winners thanks to four home runs from Houston heaven. Marwin Gonzalez, Altuve, Carlos Correa and Springer all go deep when the World Series pressure is at its most unforgiving.

This is how you rescue a season. This is how you turn a World Series upside down.

“This kind of gets the monkey off our backs,” Keuchel says.

It also gives the next three games at Minute Maid Park a completely different dimension. Instead of just fighting for survival down 2-0, the Astros are fighting for a world championship, locked in a 1-1 dogfight of a series. It’s anyone’s World Series now.

Marwin Magic

It all starts with Marwin Gonzalez’s home run off The Untouchable One to lead off the ninth inning. Gonzalez’s shot gives the Astros hope — and a 3-3 game. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen isn’t so unbeatable after all. The Astros score two off the dominant Jansen, one in eighth, one in the ninth.

“Marwin’s home run is the one that made us realize we could do this,” Correa says. “He just put a charge into it.”

And it electrified an entire roster. These Astros felt the doubt, anyone would have after the Dodgers’ seemed to be producing a carbon copy of their efficient Game 1 win. But these Astros keep grinding, keep embracing the pressure moments. It only takes one swing to change everything. Gonzalez delivers that swing.

“There’s a lot of fight, a lot of balls in this clubhouse,” Maybin says.

George Springer shows more guts than anyone — and he’s now hitting .333 in this World Series despite that horror of a game against Clatyton Kershaw. Springer and his sister used to lay on the living room floor in their parents Connecticut house as kids and talk about how cool it would be to see him hit a home run in a World Series Game.

The reality far surpasses the fanciful childhood dream. For George Springer doesn’t just hit a home run in the World Series. He wins a World Series game with an extra-innings blast.

Not so fast L.A.

Oh, these Dodgers and their celebrity fans were so sensing the moment. Way back when Joc Pederson ties things at 1-1 with a shot  into the camera well, he goes on the most enthusiastic home run trot ever. Pederson jumps down the third base line, throwing his arms into the air and urging on the already lit crowd every in-the-air step of the way. There are circus clowns who put on less of a show. It makes Correa’s emphatic bat flip after his home run in the 10th look like nothing in comparison.

There will be a ball that hits an umpire (and helps the Astros) and a fan who jumps into the Astros bullpen — as if this game, this night, doesn’t have enough.

It’s not until Chris Devenski manages to sneak a changeup by Yasiel Puig in the bottom of the 11th — after Puig is somehow not called out a pitch earlier on one of the most extended checked swings in Major League Baseball history (“I almost had a heart attack right there,” Altuve says) — that this Houston World Series win, and Springer’s moment, is secure.

This most epic game has its man. “He wasn’t broken, his swing is not bad, and he’s not gone for the series,” Hinch says of Springer.

No, he’s just an epic Houston baseball hero now.

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