Springer, Correa and the way the Astros always hoped things would work out.
Springer and Correa. Correa and Springer.
For a couple of years, this is how the Astros hoped things would work out, that these two dynamic young players—George Springer and Carlos Correa—would someday be the cornerstones for all the good things that were going to happen.
Those good things have happened faster than almost anyone could have anticipated. The Astros (37-28) have been alone atop the AL West since April 13, and with Correa’s arrival last week, both these crazy good young players have been on display.
They were at the top of the lineup on Monday when the Astros beat the Rockies 6-3. That’s mostly symbolic. When Jose Altuve returns from a pulled hamstring, he’ll hit either first or second.
But on Monday night, Astros manager A.J. Hinch began his lineup card with Springer, Correa and Preston Tucker. Those three names speak volumes about this franchise.
Springer is playing his first full major league season. Correa and Tucker made their major league debuts after hot starts in the minor leagues.
And Hinch puts them right in there in the most important parts of the lineup. Whatever the Astros are going to be this season is going to be because of the young guys.
Springer and Correa had three hits apiece on Monday. Springer continued his torrid stretch with two home runs and a single. And the Astros lead their division by 2.5 games.
When Springer was hitting .185 in mid-May, he was still contributing. It wasn’t just his manager and teammates saying the things they’re supposed to say, either.
Everyone in the ballpark could see it. He made dazzling plays in right field and drew walks and ran the bases aggressively. He hit monstrous home runs.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said there were other factors. There was the energy Springer brought to the dugout. There was his chatter, his laughter. In ways large and small, he impacted the team.
About all he wasn’t doing was getting bunches of hits. Some of that energy worked against him. He swung too hard and too early in the count.
Funny thing is, he did keep drawing walks. But he kept telling himself to “Slow the game down.” Regardless, there was never any thought of benching him or giving him a day or two to work on things.
He has been at the center of every amazing thing the Astros have done this season. He’s a huge part of maybe the best and most surprising story in the entire sport.
And now, we’re seeing the full George Springer.
The Astros have said for awhile now that they expected him to lead them for years to come. When he made his big league debut on April 16, 2014, it marked an important moment in the reconstruction of the franchise.
His season ended with a pull quad injury after just 78 games, but the Astros saw enough to know they were right about him. They knew if they stayed patient and put him in a good environment, they would have a special player.
At the moment, few players in baseball are playing better. In the last month, he was raised his batting average from .185 to .269 and with this emergence comes the arrival of a complete player.
He’s hitting .371 over the last 25 games with eight doubles, four home runs and a 1.013 OPS. This month, he’s hitting .407, third among all major league players with at least 42 plate appearances.
Only Dustin Pedroia has more hits, and Springer’s name is dotted across the leaderboard in OBP (5th), OPS (9th), homers (20th) and runs (11th).
He has continued to make those splashy plays in the outfield and to set a tone with how his first-place team approaches things. Lately, he has made the most difficult game on earth look easy.
He’s hitting .435 with four doubles and three home runs in his last 12 games, raising his average from .224 to .269. He’s ridiculously hot, so hot that his teammates doused him with cold water in the dugout on Monday night.
This is a great time to be a fan of this baseball team. General manager Jeff Luhnow’s reconstruction project has produced results far faster than anyone expected.
Dallas Keuchel is one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, and rookies Lance McCullers (3-1, 2.00) and Vincent Velasquez (5 shutout innings in only start) offer hope. Baseball’s worst bullpen in 2014 is now one of its best.
Five players have made their major league debut this season, and right-hander Mark Appel—the No. 1 pick of the 2013 Draft—has just had his two best starts of the season at Double-A Corpus Christi.
Luhnow’s off-season acquisitions—Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus, Pat Neshek, Luke Gregerson—have all played important roles in this turnaround.
Hinch was exactly the right man to manage this club. His temperament and communication and game management have been critically important.
In short, it’s all working.