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Urshela can't be stopped by Angels

@BryanHoch
April 23, 2019

ANAHEIM -- The Yankees were well-acquainted with Gio Urshela’s reputation as a slick defender, but on the day that the veteran arrived to begin this unexpected opportunity with the Yankees, he cryptically suggested he had made significant changes at the plate. Pressed for details, he promised his performance would soon

ANAHEIM -- The Yankees were well-acquainted with Gio Urshela’s reputation as a slick defender, but on the day that the veteran arrived to begin this unexpected opportunity with the Yankees, he cryptically suggested he had made significant changes at the plate. Pressed for details, he promised his performance would soon speak for itself.

And now it has. Filling in for the injured Miguel Andujar, Urshela has provided everything that could have been hoped for on both sides of the ball. The third baseman stole hits with his glove, then contributed a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the 12th inning and the deciding RBI single in the 14th as the Yankees won their fourth straight, a 4-3 victory over the Angels on Monday.

“I feel good physically, mentally, having a chance to play,” Urshela said through an interpreter. “It feels good having the opportunity to help the team. We always focus, never put our heads down. I think that's what helped us win the game tonight.”

New York found its hero in the 27-year-old Urshela, who was acquired in an unheralded swap for cash with the Blue Jays last August. Aroldis Chapman blew a one-run lead in the 12th inning, surrendering a game-tying single to Brian Goodwin after manager Aaron Boone believed the closer was being squeezed by home-plate umpire Mike Everitt.

Opportunities had been scarce for the Yankees, who endured 23 hitless plate appearances following Urshela’s fourth-inning single, a streak snapped when Clint Frazier doubled to spark the 12th-inning rally. That changed in the 14th, when Gleyber Torres reached on a dropped third strike that catcher Jonathan Lucroy lobbed into right field and advanced on a wild pitch before the Angels elected to intentionally walk Mike Ford to get to Urshela.

It was a strategy that did not work two innings earlier, setting up Urshela’s deep sac fly to score Frazier, and it failed again when Urshela laced a sharp single into center field.

"I'm seeing the results right now," Urshela said. "It's a matter of keeping working and having success out there."

From his perch on first base, Urshela raised his hands and signaled to his teammates, who continue to be awed by his growing highlight reel -- without Urshela’s stab of Zack Cozart’s potential extra-base hit in the eighth, the game might have ended innings earlier.

"He's been great," said starter J.A. Happ. "He's made some nice stops and off-balance throws, right on the money, and come up with some big hits as well. He's been really good over there."

Jonathan Holder picked up the victory with two innings of scoreless relief. The first batter that Holder faced was Mike Trout, whom he caught looking at a called third strike; the last was pitcher Trevor Cahill, summoned to pinch-hit as the Angels surrendered the designated hitter.

Cahill battled but swung through a 92.1 mph fastball, ending the four-hour, 35-minute affair, the Yankees’ second extra-inning victory in as many days.

“It's been a long 24 hours for us, traveling, a long game yesterday and a long game today,” Holder said. “Our guys did a great job and it was fun to watch.”

Before Chapman, the Yankees’ pitchers were up to the challenge, as Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle and Luis Cessa worked scorelessly in relief of Happ.

Luke Voit put the Yankees on the board quickly, extending his career-high on-base streak to 33 games with a first-inning homer off Matt Harvey. New York added a run in the third inning as Kyle Higashioka doubled and scored on a Torres sacrifice fly.

“It's not easy for us right now by any means,” Boone said. “The guys have been finding a way. We did a lot of things really well tonight. We struggled a little bit at the plate, obviously, but a lot of big outings from pitchers. We caught the ball well, we came up in enough big spots offensively. I'm really happy with the way the guys are competing and getting after it right now.”

Happ was solid, scattering three hits over seven solid innings, permitting only Lucroy’s two-run homer in the second inning. Though the 36-year-old has worked primarily off his four-seam fastball, that pitch has not yielded results thus far in 2019. Happ shifted to a more diverse assortment of sinkers, sliders and changeups to keep the Halos off balance.

“This was an awesome win,” Happ said. “This was a gritty game out there. We played really good defense and we came back to take the lead twice. You can look back on this one as a nice stepping stone, for sure.”

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.