Seldom-used Taylor Featherston turns hero in Angels’ win over Astros
It didn’t dawn on Taylor Featherston until well after he dunked his 13th-inning single into shallow right field to give the Angels a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros, survived a vicious mob of teammates smacking his helmet and ripping the jersey off his back and took his first postgame sports-drink bath.
This wasn’t just the first walk-off hit of Featherston’s budding big league career, a two-out poke of a Chad Qualls slider off the end of his bat to end Wednesday’s 4-hour 31-minute marathon.
It was also Featherston’s first hit in Angel Stadium, so sporadic has the reserve infielder’s playing time been that he went 73 games into the season and 22 at-bats at home before notching his first hit at the stadium.
“Yeah, dang, you’re right, it’s my first one,” Featherston said, when informed by a reporter in the clubhouse. “Wow, it took some time, a little more than we’d like, but it couldn’t have come at a bigger time, that’s for sure.”
Featherston, 25, would probably be better off playing every day at triple A, but as a Rule 5 pick who made the jump from double A to the big leagues, the Angels have to keep him on their roster all season or risk losing him to the Colorado Rockies, the organization from which he came.
Featherston has been used mostly as a late-game defensive replacement at third base — he entered in the ninth inning Wednesday for that reason — and has started only nine games.
He had an .093 average (four for 33) when he stepped to the plate in the 13th inning and lofted his chip-shot winner just beyond the reach of first baseman Chris Carter.
“Out of all the guys you want to experience a walk-off win, Taylor is at the top of the list,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s not getting a lot of playing time. He’s out working at 3 p.m. every afternoon on his skill set, trying to stay sharp, and he got one to fall in. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Featherston is a slick fielder with a strong arm who has looked overmatched at times at the plate, but he’s doing everything he can to stay competitive.
“You have to emphasize your drill work, your work in the cage, and make everything game-like without seeing in-game velocity,” Featherston said. “Whether it’s turning the pitching machine up, constantly asking questions to guys like [assistant hitting coach] Dave Hansen about coming off the bench, how to approach at-bats … I’ve learned a lot.
“It’s a new role, but I feel like every day I go out there, it’s more comfortable. ... There are little traps you can fall in, but I’m learning how to avoid those and to stay positive. At end of day, life is amazing. I’m here in the big leagues, playing with the Angels. Life could be a lot worse.”
A strong start by left-hander Andrew Heaney, who was called up from triple A Wednesday and gave up one run and four hits in six innings, and seven innings of scoreless, three-hit relief from Trevor Gott, Joe Smith, Huston Street, Fernando Salas and Jose Alvarez positioned the Angels for the win.
Erick Aybar sparked the 13th-inning rally with a leadoff single against left-hander Joe Thatcher. He was bunted to second base by Daniel Robertson and took third base on Efren Navarro’s groundout to second.
Qualls replaced Thatcher and walked Chris Iannetta, who took second base on defensive indifference. Featherston’s floater barely bent the blades of grass it landed on in shallow right field.
“That’s how this game works,” Featherston said. “Sometimes you hit it hard right at somebody, and other times you hit it soft and it falls.”
The hit moved the Angels to within 4 1/2 games of the first-place Astros in the American League West and gave Featherston, who grew up in Houston and played at Texas Christian University, a special sense of achievement.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” he said, when asked whether it was more special doing this against the Astros. “My dad was a big Rockets fan, Astros fan and Oilers fan back in the day, so it’s always nice beating the Astros.”
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna
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