“I wanted the opportunity”
That’s what rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe said of his final at-bat after the Yankees’ 6-5 comeback win over the Orioles on Tuesday night.
With the score tied 5-5 in the 10th inning, Volpe came up with one out and men on the corners. The Orioles had just intentionally walked DH Willie Calhoun to set up the potential double play and extend the game.
The 22-year-old came into Tuesday’s game batting just .212 and hitting just 3-for-14 in his last four starts. He was also 0-for-4 heading into that at-bat on Tuesday, so getting a ground ball seemed likely from the Orioles’ standpoint. But like he’s done for most of the season, Volpe didn’t allow the moment to get too big.
Not trying to do too much, Volpe got a pitch he could lift into the outfield and launched a 96-mph fastball to deep center field for the sac fly and the Yankees win.
“Anthony had the right approach there,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Middle of the diamond, get the ball in the air, something to elevate. Put the right swing and we were able to get one tonight.”
Boone added, “It has been fun to navigate this [season] with all eyes on [Volpe] and he handles everything so well. Has a good head on his shoulders, knows how to play. He’s advanced in his approach and makeup and felt like the right guy right there.”
The Yankees were down 4-0 to the Orioles early in Tuesday’s game before they stormed back to tie it in the fifth inning. But after Baltimore retook the lead, Aaron Judge’s ninth-inning homer with two outs tied the game to send it to extra innings where Volpe eventually won it.
Tuesday’s win was a microcosm of the Yankees season, a lot of ups and down but there’s been a lot more winning of late. The Yankees have now won five in a row and eight of their last 10 games.
And although Volpe has sparked the offense on a few occasions this season, his numbers don’t jump off the page. Despite that, the Yankees are content with where he’s at and are confident the offensive production will come, but with the pressures of putting on the pinstripes they are more than happy with the poise their young shortstop has shown.
“That’s what we’re betting on when we took him. Yea, he had a great spring. Numbers wise he produced and that mattered but much more was what we thought of the person,” Boone explained. “That poise is part of that. Baseball IQ, intelligence, mature and he’s handled everything well. He’s struggled well, he’s handled success, come in with established guys and put himself as a big part of it. He’s every bit as important as all of them.”
And the veterans agree. When Volpe drove in the winning run, he was mobbed by his teammates and during the on-field postgame interview, Judge and Anthony Rizzo made sure to give him an honorary ice bath.
“First big walk-off there in a big situation in a game where we were down,” Judge said of Volpe’s walk-off. “He’s been swinging the bat well all year, he’s hitting it hard right at guys and really hasn’t been getting rewarded. So to see him come up there in a big situation and win us the game, Rizzo and I were pretty excited. Couldn’t let him get off without a little bit of water.”
And while Volpe said he may want to forget the ice bath, the soft spoken rookie made sure to take in the moment.
“The whole game and the whole moment,” Volpe said with a big grin. “It was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments happening for the first time.”