Rookie SS Peraza puts on defensive show in Game 2

October 22nd, 2022

HOUSTON -- Oswald Peraza made himself bigger than the moment.

The Yankees' shortstop showed flashes of what’s ahead with several impressive defensive plays in New York’s 3-2 loss in Game 2 of the ALCS on Thursday.

After months of uncertainty and inconsistency at the position, the Yankees may have finally found grounds to promote Peraza from shortstop of the future to everyday contributor. It was an unconventional way to make the leap, with New York down, 0-1, in the series ahead of his very first postseason start. But Peraza didn’t flinch.

“There’s more emotion. It’s a new experience,” Peraza said, in Spanish, of his Game 2 start. “But it’s still the same game, so I’m enjoying it. I’m happy to be here.”

At least on one end of the ball, there was a lot to enjoy for the Yankees’ No. 3 prospect.

It started with the very first Astros at-bat, in which Jose Altuve slapped a ground ball to short at 102.1 mph off the bat and sprinted from home to first in 4.4 seconds.

For a moment, Altuve looked poised to snap his historic postseason hit drought with his first swing of the night. Standing in his way, however, was Peraza. The rookie dove for the ball and spun for leverage before throwing a perfect strike to first baseman Anthony Rizzo and beating Altuve by inches.

“It all happened really fast,” Peraza said. “But I knew I could make that play, no problem. After that, I calmed down and I had fun playing the rest of the game.”

Peraza did it again in the seventh, sprinting to reach Chas McCormick’s lazy ground ball and firing a bullet to first with no time to waste. Peraza and second baseman Gleyber Torres then combined for a potentially momentum-shifting double play that same inning. Once again robbing Altuve, Torres scooped up a 106.7 mph grounder and, from the dirt, flipped it over to Peraza, who then sent it to first to turn two.

The chemistry and ease were visible among the two Venezuela natives. That’s been a focal point off the field for them for a while.

“He's a great player, a really confident guy,” Torres said before Game 2. “I already told him a couple of things, like just be in control. It's the postseason, but at the end of the day, it's just the same game. Just try to do the little things and just have fun. … You play all season long to be here, and when you’ve got an opportunity, just enjoy the moment.”

Based on how he played, and his stance when talking to reporters after Game 2, Peraza seems to have taken Torres’ words to heart.

“This type of advice from someone like [Torres], it calms you down,” said Peraza. “At the end of the day, it’s a sport. Take it easy, have fun, because that’s what it’s about.”

It will be a crucial and encouraging development if Peraza is able to carve out an everyday role at short for the remainder of the postseason. Though Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s struggles at short are the most recent bad bounce at the position for the Yankees, their troubles date back further than this year -- with Torres’ difficulties before moving to second and the departure of Gio Urshela.

In Peraza, New York holds a promising solution to the puzzle.

“I think he can be a good everyday Major League shortstop,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone ahead of Game 2. “He plays the position with some ease. Easy arm, looks like a shortstop when you watch him move around out there, take ground balls and play the position.”

Peraza couldn’t replicate his defensive success at the plate, though.

In another frustrating night for the Yankees’ offense, Peraza went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. That may come across as somewhat of a red flag, but considering that Kiner-Falefa’s postseason numbers have been tepid at best -- a .264 average with a .620 OPS and no RBIs -- now may be as good a time as any to see if the rookie can find his swing.

Peraza’s small sample in the regular season may warrant that chance, too. He batted .306 with a homer and two RBIs, along with six walks versus nine strikeouts over 18 games.

Whether his next chance will come on Saturday, when the series shifts to New York and the Yankees officially enter must-win territory, is a storyline worth following.

“On to the next one,” said Peraza.