Gio Urshela enjoyed what he called one of the best games of his life in the Yankees' Wild Card sweep of the Indians, then added to his hot-corner highlight reel with back-to-back slick defensive plays in the second inning of New York's 9-3 victory over the Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS on Monday night.
The first was a Manuel Margot chopper that bounced high over Urshela's head, but he snared it with a leap and fired to first base for the out. Playing on the grass for the next batter, Urshela smothered a Joey Wendle grounder in the hole, then calmly delivered a strike from the seat of his pants.
“I just react to the ball,” Urshela said on MLB Network after the game. “Every single day, I'm trying to keep working. I’ve got to continue to move the feet, to keep the throw on the chest of the first baseman.”
Urshela made a similar play against the Indians to start a crucial double play last week, with closer Aroldis Chapman calling it a "key play of the game." Coming off his huge grand slam in the Wild Card Series, Urshela stayed hot with the bat as well, going 2-for-5 with a pair of singles.
"He's so good over there," said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. "There are probably three really good plays he made tonight. He's a lot of fun to watch. He plays with a joy that's infectious."
No stranger to the hot corner during his 12-year career in the Majors, Boone was asked if he could have made the same types of plays in his prime.
"I could have," Boone quipped. "Doesn't mean I would have."
Urshela's gems came early in Monday’s victory, but they were important in keeping traffic off the basepaths for Gerrit Cole, who struck out eight over six innings of three-run ball.
"He was just showing off that one inning -- I mean, oh my goodness," Cole said. "I thought the defense was great, all around. [Petco Park has] a surface that nobody on this team is really familiar with, which can pose some challenges because of how quick it is. We were on top of the ball and we made some good plays."