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George Springer sparks Astros’ win in slugfest with Athletics

 

Via Houston Chronicle

George Springer has slugged at a rate rarely seen by a leadoff hitter.

And the season’s not even halfway over.

In the Astros‘ 79th game, an 11-8 win against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night, Springer set a franchise single-season record with his ninth leadoff home run. He surpassed Craig Biggio‘s mark from 2001, which Springer also matched last season.

Alfonso Soriano‘s major league-record of 13 leadoff homers in a single season is within striking distance for the 27-year-old Springer, likely to play in his first All-Star Game on July 11 at Miami’s Marlins Park. Springer’s 342-foot line drive over the right-field wall at Minute Maid Park signified his 24th homer of the season, also a single-season record for an Astros leadoff hitter.

Springer’s homer Wednesday, by far his shortest of the season, sparked a two-run first against A’s starter Jesse Hahn, the same pitcher who inadvertently plunked the star outfielder in the first plate appearance of a game last week in Oakland. The Astros (53-26) chased Hahn from the game after just two-plus innings and tagged him with six runs.

A night after managing just one hit in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Astros were 8 for 16. Each of their nine starters had a hit by the end of the fifth inning. Seven players drove in at least one run.

Springer reached base four times and smacked two doubles in addition to his homer. Jose Altuve doubled, singled, walked twice and stole two bases. Josh Reddick had three singles, three RBI and twice stole third base.

A five-run third inning against the combination of Hahn and reliever Josh Smith allowed the Astros to overcome a terrible start by David Paulino, who allowed seven runs and completed only four innings.

Paulino became the second Astros pitcher to allow four homers in a game this season after Mike Fiers on May 2 against the Texas RangersKhris Davis got the rookie righthander twice, for a solo shot in the second and a three-run blast in the third. Ryon Healy and Matt Olson accounted for the other two longballs.

Jed Lowrie took Will Harris deep in the seventh for the A’s season-high fifth home run of the game.

Springer’s latest leadoff homer barely cleared the fence. In a 2-and-1 count, he capitalized on a 95 mph fastball Hahn left over the plate and deposited it in the front row in right field. According to MLB’s Statcast, it traveled 24 feet shorter than his previous shortest this season, which he hit in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s series opener.

On his current pace, Springer would set a major league record for homers in a single season for a player batting out of the leadoff spot. Soriano has the two highest totals, having hit 39 as the Washington Nationals‘ leadoff hitter in 2006 and 38 in the top spot for the New York Yankees in 2002. Soriano also had 35 for the Yankees in 2003, the season he had his record-setting 13 homers of the leadoff variety.

Springer’s 24 homers on the season tie him with Cody Bellinger for second in the majors behind only Aaron Judge (27). His 11 homers this month are fewer than only Bellinger’s 13 and just two off the Astros’ record for any month, set by Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell in June of his 1994 National League MVP campaign.

Springer’s also the first Astros player with 24 homers before the All-Star break since Lance Berkman in 2006. One more would make him the first Astro with 25 since Berkman’s franchise-record 29 before the break in 2002.

Just six players have hit 10 or more leadoff homers in a season, most recently the Colorado Rockies‘ Charlie Blackmon, who had 10 last year.

 



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