Urshela, Judge happily trade rest for a 'W'

Both come off bench to drive in only runs of game as Yanks use small ball to triumph

May 20th, 2021

wasn’t supposed to take the field for the Yankees in Thursday’s series finale. With a day game following a night game -- one that featured Corey Kluber’s first career no-hitter, no less -- manager Aaron Boone said that he wanted to give Urshela time off to rest his bothersome left knee.

But with the Yankees locked in a pitchers’ duel between and the Rangers’ Dane Dunning through six innings, Boone decided he had too many weapons on the bench not to use them. So with runners on first and third and only one out in the seventh, he pinch-hit Urshela for Mike Ford.

The move worked as well as the skipper could have intended. On a 2-0 count, Urshela smacked a sharp single to right field that dropped directly in front of David Dahl, who bobbled the ball long enough for Rougned Odor to score the breakthrough run in the Yankees’ 2-0 win over the Rangers at Globe Life Field.

Urshela wasn’t the only one to join in on the pinch-hit fun, either, as Boone tapped to replace Tyler Wade with two runners still aboard after Miguel Andújar struck out. Judge delivered as well, hitting a single to center to add an insurance run to the Yankees’ cause.

“Yeah, I kinda knew that was potentially a lane where if obviously we were in a close ballgame, that would be a spot where we would [put in] those guys,” Boone said. “But credit to them. Ready to go. Both Gio and AJ knew the situation coming up, prepared for it [to] go up and have really good at-bats and be the difference in the game.”

The run support rewarded Germán for twirling a season-high-tying seven scoreless innings with six hits, five strikeouts and no walks, earning him his fourth win of the season. He improved to 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his past six starts since April 22.

“It’s tough following up a no-hitter after Corey Kluber and what he did, but Domingo was right there,” Judge said. “Seven [shutout innings] then throwing it over to our bullpen was pretty impressive. All his pitches were working today, that changeup was nasty. … It was all around a great showing by him.”

For the Yankees, it sealed a four-game series win in Texas and extended their undefeated streak to their past nine series (7-0-2) after they lost four of their first five. They also won the past three games despite going homerless in each. New York has won six of its past seven such games since the start of May after losing its 11 previous games without a homer, dating back to last Sept. 23.

Small ball hasn’t been the Yankees' forte in recent years. They've instead beaten opponents by sending the ball out of the park. But it has been working for the team lately. New York is 5-9 this season when it is held to two runs or fewer, but including Thursday, the club has won five of its past seven such games.

“You’re not always gonna blow guys out; baseball’s a hard game. It’s really about doing the little things right,” pitcher Jordan Montgomery said before the game. “I think we’re doing all the things right to win games. We’re getting guys on, we’re scoring enough runs, we’re throwing the ball pretty well right now. Starters are throwing fairly well, and bullpen guys are coming in and shutting it down. So that’s pretty good recipe for a win there.”

That’s precisely what Urshela and Judge helped the Yankees do Thursday, despite their relative lack of success in those spots previously. Judge entered his at-bat having gone 0-for-13 as a pinch-hitter in his career.

“I think the biggest thing was trying to stay aggressive in that situation,” Judge said. “I think sometimes as a pinch-hitter I get up there and I want to see a pitch or I’m thinking about a plan, and all of a sudden you miss your pitches to hit.”

Urshela entered 2021 with a .182 batting average (2-for-11) in pinch-hit situations, but he is 2-for-2 with 4 RBIs in those plate appearances this season. In fact, both hits came in the span of a week, as Urshela smacked a go-ahead three-run homer to give the Yankees a 5-4 victory last Friday against the Orioles.

After that win, Urshela said, “You’ve got to be ready all the time.” After Thursday, he joked that he “started getting ready when I woke up this morning.” At its core, the matter was much simpler.

“It always feels good trying to do the little details to help the team win,” Urshela said. “Today was the case, and I feel really happy to help my team.”