HOUSTON — As the ball left George Springer’s bat and sailed deeper and deeper into right center field, the Houston Astros outfielder skipped out of the batter’s box, casually making his way to first base. It appeared that he thought he had just hit a home run in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the World Series, but the ball stopped just short of that, nearly caught by Washington Nationals right fielder Adam Eaton.
Springer didn’t start sprinting until after he touched first base, getting to second for a double but perhaps costing himself a triple. The hit scored Kyle Tucker to get Houston within one of the Nationals’ lead, but had Springer gotten to third base, José Altuve’s flyball in the next at-bat could have brought Springer home for the tying run. Washington won the game, 5-4.
Astros Manager A.J. Hinch acknowledged that Springer “got caught up in the moment of the play, in the anxiousness to see if the ball was leaving.”
“I saw a couple of things wrong with that play in that kind of perfect things aligned for ultimately, I guess, a mediocre base-running play,” Hinch said Wednesday. “It wasn't an egregious showmanship kind of pimp job, as they call it. It was a delay in reading the play correctly to where once he started running he ran into Tucker who was coming back to tag up because Eaton looked like he was camped underneath the ball.
“So the collision course of making a decision — George didn't give himself the longest chance to make it. He had to make a snap decision based on where he was at the time in which the play had matured and the ball had gone off the wall. Tucker, on the other hand, was trying to make an aggressive play by making sure if Eaton had caught the ball that he was going to advance to third base and kind of steal an extra 90 feet.”
Outside of the blunder, Springer was Houston’s best source of offense against Washington in Game 1, going 2 for 3 with two RBI and two runs. After both Hinch and Springer were asked about the play by reporters after the game, Springer called Hinch to explain.
“This guy cares,” Hinch said. “He didn't want to be perceived or looked upon as missing an opportunity to advance. And as I told him … I don't know if that flyball to right field with Eaton's arm allows him to score. There's so much context and what-ifs. In this sport we always assume that the other way of doing things would have worked out perfectly. And as we know, that's not the case.
“But I wanted to encourage him to interpret the play the right way. But at the same time, to kick and scream and yell at him for something that I felt like was an honest mistake, I guess, was important for me so he could sleep at night.”