The theatrics of a highlight-worthy play can dazzle all of those who witness it, fans and players alike. Even more special is the fielder who makes these types of plays look routine. As he maintained a business-as-usual-like demeanor during his post-game Zoom interview, while talking about his game-saving double play, it is clear that Gio Urshela is one of those players.
Great plays at third base have been commonplace ever since the New York Yankees called Urshela up in from Triple-A in 2019. In the eighth inning Wednesday night, his diving stop on a hard hit ball off the bat of Carlos Santana saved a run, but he also managed to turn and throw from the seat of his pants to start an inning-ending double play.
“That was a huge play for us, for the team,” Urshela said. “Trying to save that runner that helped the team to get that energy to keep fighting in the game.”
Urshela shined Wednesday night to propel the Yankees past the Cleveland Indians into the ALDS. It is well documented that the infielder began his professional career with the Indians, and his heroics on both sides of the ball helped the team survive a back-and-forth battle in Game Two.
At the plate, his grand slam in the top of the fourth inning gave the Yankees their first lead of the game. He worked the count full in the six-pitch at-bat before hitting the ball over the left-centerfield wall. After he made his double play, he managed to make contact on an off-balanced swing for a single up the middle in the top of the ninth. That single, with two strikes, set the table for the team’s game-winning rally.
He admitted after the game that his performance won him the team’s championship belt.
“That was one of the best games I have ever played in my life,” Urshela said. “That was a great game.”
Coming Full Circle
Manager Aaron Boone put Urshela’s contributions to the victory into context.
“Gio was probably THE star of the game amongst the many, many big-time performances,” Boone said.
It is clear that impact of Urshela was felt all throughout Wednesday’s game. In 2017, Urshela played against the Yankees in the ALDS when he was with the Indians. He proved to be a non-factor as the Yankees won the series in five games. He slashed .167/.167/.167 in that series with two singles in 13 plate appearances. In fact, manager Terry Francona removed him for a pinch hitter in two of the five games.
In the abbreviated two-game series, he collected three hits, including the two big hits on Wednesday. He drove in a run each night, and his defense made the difference in the clinching game. In 2017, he posted a win probability added of -0.18. This indicates that, if anything, his performance in that series hurt the Indians. In less than half of the time, his WPA was 0.27 in this Wild Card Series. That number proves what was apparent on the field. He was a major factor in the series victory.
The mentality for Urshela is always to do his best and win the game. Even though that mentality has never changed, it is clear that his performance has from one franchise to the next. To put on the display that he did, with high stakes against his original franchise is poetic. It is a sign that he has come full circle in his career.
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