George Springer's major league career got off to a slow start, but the 24-year-old Astros rightfielder is now in the swing of things. On Wednesday afternoon against the Royals, he clubbed his sixth homer in as many games and his ninth in his past 18 games.
Springer entered the season ranked 20th on Baseball Prospectus' Top 101 Prospects list, and similarly on other lists, but he spent a couple of weeks in the minors while Houston manipulated his service clock long enough to forestall his free agency. He debuted on April 16, and while he collected at least one hit in his first five games, by the end of April he was scuffling along at a .182/.262/.218 clip. Springer homered for the first time on May 8, the last game of a modest nine-game hitting streak that took him across the Mendoza Line. From May 21-26, he homered five times in four straight games against the Angels, Mariners and Royals; he hit two in Seattle on May 24 after sitting out a pair of games due to a hip flexor strain.
After going 4-for-4 with two doubles and a homer on Monday in Kansas City, Springer was limited to a single on Tuesday, but he started Wednesday's game with a bang. Facing K.C.'s Danny Duffy in the first inning with Jose Altuve on first base, he found a high 1-1 pitch to his liking and just cleared the wall in left-centerfield:
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Here's a supercut of his five homers in four games, a montage that includes Springer decked out in old-school Astros rainbow garb (with the Mariners also wearing throwback uniforms) for his first multi-homer game as well as him clouting one 425 feet into Kauffman Stadium's famous fountain:
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At this writing, Springer is batting .273/.358/.517. He's had his problems making contact, striking out in 30.1 percent of his plate appearances, but his power is as advertised. His nine homers for the month are the most on the Astros and rank third in the AL behind Edwin Encarnacion's 14 and Nelson Cruz's 10. On a lesser note, he's had his problems in rightfield, making six errors in his first 36 games including this GIF'd gaffe-and-a-half from an April 30 game against the Nationals:
Shaky defense aside, Springer isn't the only Astro who has been on a roll lately. Altuve came into Wednesday hitting .320/.362/.436. On the pitching side, Dallas Keuchel (2.55 ERA and 5.1 K/BB through 10 starts) and Collin McHugh (2.80 ERA and 10.0 K/9 through seven starts) have been hot. Since starting the season 11-26, the 'Stros came into Wednesday having won four in a row and 10 of 16, with series victories over the Rangers, White Sox and Royals plus a split with the Mariners offsetting a four-game losing streak. Houston is still not a good team, but it's 16-20 with Springer in the lineup, and neither its .396 winning percentage nor its −46 run differential is the worst in baseball. Those may not seem like noteworthy accomplishments, but for a team that has lost at least 106 games three years in a row, they count as signs of progress.