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HOU@KC: Springer notches four hits, makes great grab

KANSAS CITY -- It's impossible not to ponder the question: What can the kid possibly do now?

Rookie outfielder George Springer added to his masterful stretch of play with a perfect night at the plate Monday, going 4-for-4, with a home run, two doubles, five runs scored, three RBIs and a walk. He also made an impressive running catch in the seventh inning of Houston's 9-2 win at Kauffman Stadium.

The historical feats were seemingly endless: First Astros rookie to homer in four straight games; first Astro since Carlos Lee (Aug. 6-11, 2011) to collect at least one RBI in five straight games; first Astro to score five runs in a games since Cody Ransom in 2007, and just the fourth player in team history.

"Springer was absolutely tremendous tonight. Line drive after line drive," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "He impacted the game in every phase tonight."

It was the latest episode in Springer's revival from a struggling prospect less than two weeks ago to an early candidate for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

On May 16, Springer's slash line read .222/.294/.343. After Monday, it's a robust .268/.348/.500.

"He got out to a slow start, and the game was kind of fast and he kind of pumped the brakes, and now, once he slowed the game down, you're starting to see his natural talent pretty much just take over," Porter said.

Monday's monster game comes after the right fielder belted four home runs -- including an eventual game-winner -- in his prior three games, and helped the Astros salvage a four-game series split with the Mariners over the weekend.

Springer is now 8-for-16 with five home runs, two doubles, 11 RBIs, and nine runs scored in his last four games.

"I'm just trying to help the team win," Springer said. "Whatever way I can do it, I'm happy to help."

His first two plate appearances came against Yordano Ventura, another hyped rookie and owner of the top average fastball speed among starters in the Major Leagues, according to FanGraphs.com. But Ventura's night ended early and disappointingly, as the righty left after allowing five runs in 2 2/3 innings with lateral elbow discomfort in his throwing arm.

"I came out of the game but, thank God, after the treatment, I started feeling better. So I'll see how I feel tomorrow after the tests," Ventura said.

On the other side, Scott Feldman simply chugged along as the Astros provided plenty of offensive support. Houston totaled a season-high 16 hits, and nine runs -- the most backing the Astros' offense has given him this season. Feldman allowed two runs in his six innings of work, as he scattered eight hits and walked one.

For the first time since 2010, when he played for the Rangers, Feldman did not record a strikeout as a starter.

"I feel like Scott did a tremendous job with his secondary stuff. The last couple starts, he's left some curveballs up in the zone," Porter said. "His curveball had really good bite today, and he did a really good job, six strong innings."

The statistics backed Porter, as of the eight hits allowed by Feldman, none came on his curveball.

Alex Presley and Marwin Gonzalez -- the eighth and ninth hitters, respectively -- combined for seven hits, and were integral in Houston's offensive success with two outs.

Ten of the Astros' hits came with two outs, and Presley (three hits) and Gonzalez (four hits) contributed seven of those two-out knocks. Houston also scored four runs with a pair retired.

"I think that was part of our woes earlier on in the year, just not being able to get those two-out hits," Porter said, adding, "You look at a lot of those hits, they're up the middle, they're the other way, I feel like the guys are really covering all aspects of the strike zone."

Houston now has won three games in a row, and its boasts an 8-5 record in its last 13 games.

The Astros got to Ventura early with two runs in the first and three in the second. Their methods to opening up a 5-0 lead were disparate, but equally effective.

In the first, Houston jumped on Ventura from the opening batter, as Jose Altuve, MLB's leader in base hits, lined a leadoff single to right. Then, they patiently waited as the novice starter unraveled at the seams. Springer and Dexter Fowler (3-for-3, two walks) walked to load the bases with no one out.

Jason Castro and Matt Dominguez picked up RBIs on a groundout and a sacrifice fly, respectively.

The Astros' patient first gave way to an aggressive, two-out-reliant approach in the second.

After two quick outs to start the inning, Gonzalez kept the inning alive with a double into the right-center gap.

With new life, the next four batters reached base, as a Springer two-run double and an RBI single by Fowler highlighted the three-run second. The first two outs took six pitches. The elusive third required 24. Houston did not put another crooked number on the board, but instead tacked on one run in the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth innings.

Springer launched his seventh home run of the season off Louis Coleman in the eighth for his fourth hit.

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