CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Before Friday’s win over the Yankees, Indians Manager Terry Francona referred to third baseman Giovany Urshela as an “elite defender.”
The young corner infielder proved his manager right with a number of awe-inspiring plays, but none bigger than a one-out putout at home in the 5th inning.
Following a solo shot from Todd Frazier off of Trevor Bauer to open the Yankees’ scoring, Ronald Torreyes and Brett Gardner both singled, setting up a chance for Clint Frazier to potentially tie the game. The former Indians farmhand hit a chopper to Urshela at third, which he caught on a high bounce, jumping and throwing out the five-foot-eight Torreyes on a jump-throw to home.
Bauer would walk MVP front-runner Aaron Judge on two questionable ball calls, but struck out All-Star catcher Gary Sanchez on six pitches to get out of the inning with his only earned run.
Francona avoided hyperbole.
“I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that’s potentially a game saver,” he opined. “That was an inning that Trev ended up throwing about 30 pitches, gave up one, had to pitch out of the bases loaded, got the strikeout. But without that play, you don’t know. That was an incredible play. One, to make the play, the beginning of it, then to have kind of the presence of mind that that was his only play. That was a long shot. But the throw crossed the runner, right on the money.”
As Francona mentioned, it was the timing of the play that made the difference, and because it was Urshela’s only play, the importance only increased.
With no play on Frazier going to first, no play at home would have taken the situation from 4-2 with one out and two on for Judge and Sanchez to 4-1 with two outs and the opportunity to pitch around the two sluggers.
Bauer turned in a gem on Friday, going seven and allowing the one run, but the right-hander recognized the gift his third baseman gave him and what it took to make the play.
“Just to catch the ball in the first place, he did a great job of that,” Bauer said. “And then where he caught it, the runner was directly between him and Berto.
“So he takes another step, jumps to give himself a lane to throw and executes the throw. Even the way he jumped off, his feet were reversed, so he had to switch his feet in the air. It was a great baseball play. When it happens that fast, it has to come instinctually as a fielder. It just shows the level at which he can play defense, and how instinctual he is. It was a fantastic play.”
Because the runner headed home was Torreyes, Urshela had the opportunity to have some sort of visual in throwing to Roberto Perez at home. The third baseman admitted Torreyes’ height gave him a window to throw, albeit a small one.
When it was all said and done, Urshela had the opportunity to look up and see the play on the big screen, where he looked upon his works.
“I said, ‘Whoa. That was a great play,’” he said.
At the time, Urshela said he was not as excited about his contribution as he was when Bauer eventually retired Sanchez on a curveball in the dirt, something his good friend Francisco Lindor said he admires about him.
“That shows what type of guy he is,” Lindor said. “That’s more important. Getting a bases-loaded strikeout is huge. I was pretty pumped up for both. Gio gave me a smile. Sanchez, it was one of those where you first pump.”