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George Springer Goes Spider-Man, Sends the Astros Clubbing Before Game 7: Suddenly Loose Houston is High Off a Kirby Puckett Worthy Moment - PaperCity Magazine
Culture / Sporting Life

George Springer Goes Spider-Man, Sends the Astros Clubbing Before Game 7

Suddenly Loose Houston is High Off a Kirby Puckett Worthy Moment

BY // 10.21.17

Young Spider-Man might not be able to make that catch. But George Springer does.

Sprinting back, tracking the moon shot off Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier’s bat like a hawk tracks a mouse, Springer leaps up with his back against wall. Michael Jordan sometimes didn’t have this much hang time. Springer’s glove is just below the yellow line at the top of the center field fence when he snares the skyrocketing baseball as he bounces against the wall.

Suddenly, the Astros are saved, safe and headed for Seventh Heaven. There are firemen who’ve caught kittens who wish they could make this kind of rescue.

“I thought he hit it pretty good,” Houston Astros catcher Brian McCann says of Frazier’s blast. “But we’ve got a guy out there who can play free safety in the NFL.”

Springer’s catch acrobatics preserve his team’s 3-0 lead and allows Justin Verlander, who just may be the greatest late-season trade acquisition in the modern sports era, to finish seven shutout innings. It’s the final jolt the Astros need, seemingly even propelling their offense to erupt for four runs in the next half inning, leading to an emphatic 7-1 Game 6 answer to the New York Yankees’ rude Bronx Jungle dominance.

It’s all more than a little reminiscent of Kirby Puckett’s epic catch in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series — with the major difference being that’s one of the most memorable World Series of all time while this is “only” an American League Championship Series. But try telling that to any Astros fan lucky enough to squeeze into Minute Maid Park for Friday night’s Game 6.

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This isn’t just a baseball game — it’s a wild, white-knuckled, can’t-sit-still, screaming mosh pit of fun, emotions and eventually, exhilaration. No matter what happens in Saturday night’s winner-take-all Game 7, there are no more questions about this 2017 Houston Astros team. They answer the bell once again in the pressurized cauldron of a Game 6 elimination game.

Jose Altuve, the rightful American League MVP, ends his longest slump of the entire year (an 0 for 12 playoff snide) by lacing a two-run, two-out double into left field to give the Astros a 3-0 lead. Verlander just continues his master class in playoff pitching, bamboozling Yankees slugger Gary Sanchez into swinging at an 3-0 slider, making Frazier look so pitiful on one strikeout swing that even a Little Leaguer would be horrified by the futility.

“I literally love Justin Verlander,” Altuve memorably blurts out. And really, who in Houston doesn’t?

“He rises to the moment,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch says.

So does George Springer. Literally. On a night when all of Minute Maid often is on its feet, a night any dad just wants to watch the game with his baseball-loving son or daughter, Springer takes a backwards flying leap and gets the ball before the wall. Josh Reddick is the Astros outfielder who keeps Spider-Man suits in his locker, but after this Friday night, Reddick may as well just hand them over to Springer.

For balls hit like that, just don’t come back.

“I thought, ‘Holy hell, it’s going to leave the yard,’ ” Hinch says of Frazier’s rocket.

Instead, Springer strikes — and now Seventh Heaven is here. There is nothing in sports like a Game 7. For diehard fans, it’s like Christmas in October. For even the most casual fans, it’s still suddenly as must-watch as NBC’s Friends and Seinfeld Thursday night juggernaut used to be. It’s certainly bigger than those endless ballpark promos for Stranger Things II. Drama’s a given. And you can expect plenty of plot twists.

kirby puckett catch
Here is Kirby Puckett’s legendary catch. Look familiar?

On a night when Springer goes Kirby, maybe it’s worth noting something else from that legendary 1991 World Series. That’s one series where the home team won every single game. If the Astros move to 4-0 at home in this series on Saturday night, they’re in the World Series.

Seventh Heaven.

Jose Altuve’s MVP Mojo

These 101-win Astros certainly seem to have their mojo back. When reporters are let into Houston’s clubhouse, the music is thumping and Club Astro is all but back. When there’s no time to go clubbing, you bring the club to you. Springer, the resident DJ, is the ringmaster of this too. The Astros’ 28-year-old center fielder — the player Sports Illustrated actually put on that 2014 cover that declared the Astros would be world champions in 2017 — isn’t hitting in this series (so far). But he’s doing a lot of everything else.

He’s making the no-way catch that could define this series — and change everything (again).

“You play the game to have moments like that,” Springer says.

Springer’s moment comes at 404 feet from home plate, with his back against a bluish TexanPlus WellCare health insurance sign. And it certainly keeps the Astros breathing. Right on to Seventh Heaven.

“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a lot of emotions in that clubhouse,” Altuve says. “After this game… it was a crazy game. But personally I really like the way we play in these kind of games with everybody up.

“I believe in my team. Tomorrow is going to be a good night.”

Tomorrow is already here. Baseball’s postseason is relentless — you’d think MLB might like a one-day break to build up the drama of Game 7. But that’s not how it schedules these series.

There is almost no time to even marvel over Springer’s catch. OK, maybe there’s a little time. After all, Peter Parker is not coming up with that thing.

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