While Angels manager Brad Ausmus tended to the injured Zack Cozart at second base in the 12th inning of an eventual 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Monday night, bench coach Josh Paul canvassed the dugout to see if any of the team’s outfielders had any infield experience.
“He just asked me if I had ever been on the dirt and I said the last time was in 2006 in instructional league,” said Peter Bourjos, who had not played an inning of infield in 14 professional seasons and had just scored the tying run after entering the game as a pinch-runner in the 12th.
“It was the last game and they moved guys around to have fun. Periodically, in St. Louis, I took a lot of ground balls, just messing around.”
That was enough for Paul and Ausmus. Bourjos found an infielder’s glove and headed for second base to start the 13th inning. Two batters in, Brett Gardner laced a grounder that appeared headed for right field.
Bourjos, doing his best Roberto Alomar impersonation, dived to his left to smother the ball, scrambled to his knees and threw out the speedy Gardner at first base.
An infielder is born.
Well, not quite.
“You know, I didn't have to think about it, thank God,” Bourjos said. “I think if it was hit right at me, I would've booted it. That way, it was a reaction and I could knock it down and get it over there. I was kind of surprised.”
In the 14th inning, with a Yankees runner on first base and the left-handed-hitting Mike Tauchman up, the Angels moved utility infielder Tommy La Stella from third to second so Bourjos would not have to deal with having to start a potential double play or turn one.
“I think it was just to get me out of the way,” Bourjos said. “I don't think Tauchman hits a lot of balls over there, so I think it was good. He put me over [at third] where there probably wasn’t going to be play.”
The Yankees went on to score the winning run that inning on Gio Urshela’s two-out RBI single, and the Angels were stung by their lack of resources in the bottom of the 14th.
With the Angels out of position players and having lost their designated hitter when Bourjos, who ran for DH Kevan Smith, entered the game at second, the Yankees intentionally walked Kole Calhoun with two outs to bring up what was now the pitcher’s spot.
Ausmus called on Trevor Cahill, who had extensive hitting experience as a National League pitcher. But Cahill struck out to end the 4-hour, 35-minute game, in which both teams scored in the 12th inning, the Angels rallying against usually dominant Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman with Brian Goodwin’s two-out, score-tying RBI single.
“It was tremendous — it really was a great baseball game, all-around, on both sides,” Ausmus said. “They battled back. We battled back against one of the best closers in the game to tie it. Just unfortunately came up a little short. There was a lot of good things that happened except for the outcome.”
Among those good things was a bounce-back start from Matt Harvey, who allowed two runs and three hits in six innings, striking out two and walking two. The right-hander had allowed 18 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings of his previous three games.
Harvey gave up a solo homer to Luke Voit in the first and a sacrifice fly to Gleyber Torres in the third but retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced. He needed only 83 pitches to get through six innings.
“The sixth was my best inning,” Harvey said. “I felt like I could attack and throw the ball the way I wanted to. That’s big. Going six innings with that many pitches and still feeling like I could keep going, that’s a big positive.”
A mental adjustment helped Harvey in the final three innings.
“I had been fighting mechanics the last couple of starts,” Harvey said, “Finally, I said [to myself[, just attack and go after guys. You can get so mechanical you forget what you need to do, and that’s execute pitches and really get after it.”
The Angels bullpen allowed only one run and one hit in seven innings before Luke Bard gave up the winning run in the 14th. Jonathan Lucroy hit a two-run homer in the second, but the catcher’s throwing error on a strikeout/wild pitch sparked New York’s rally in the 14th.