Since drafting Anthony Volpe in the first round out of high school in 2019, the Yankees have admired his physical ability as much as they have been impressed by his baseball IQ.
That combination of athleticism and intelligence was on display in the final play of a 5-4 victory over the Royals on Friday night in The Bronx.
With the tying run on second base and two outs in the top of the ninth, Volpe raced to his right to get Bobby Witt Jr. to make a good stop. Grounder.
What looked like an infield hit to the speedy Witt, who put runners on the corners against Clay Holmes, instead turned into a game-ending run.
Volpe scrambled and threw to third, where DJ LeMahieu was running towards base.
LeMahieu caught Volpe’s throw and tagged a sliding Drew Waters just before he reached the bag.
Third base umpire Jordan Baker initially ruled Waters safe, but the normally calm LeMahieu clarified that he thought he had tagged him.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone requested a review of the play from the crew chief—as it was after the start of the eighth inning—and the call was promptly overturned.
Boone said, “That was a cautionary play.” “With Witt running, you’re not throwing him out first, [so to have] Resource [to throw to third] And DJ also got into position to make that play, it was a big time play.
The result of the play surprised even Volpe, who knew he had little chance of getting to Witt at first.
Volpe said that Witt had hit a “tailor-made double play” in his last at-bat.
Even on the third throw, Volpe said, “I knew I had to be fast, so I just reacted.”
And while Lemahieu was clearly confident he made the tag in time, Volpe wasn’t so sure.
“I thought he was safe,” Volpe said. ,[The umpire] it was a great view [and] I didn’t know if we can challenge because we already challenged. I was surprised and happy when they put it on the board.
Volpe said it is the kind of play that is practiced, although “not really sliding and throwing, but DJ was right there.” It was one of those plays.”
This saved the Yankees and Holmes, who was hit hard in the ninth.
It was one of several solid plays by the Yankees in the middle, with Oswald Peraza replacing Gleyber Torres at second base.
Peraza denied a run-scoring single to Witt in the fourth and a play earlier from Volpe almost ended the game when he grabbed a liner from Mackel Garcia and missed, beating Waters to second for a double play.
Boone said of the defense, “That turned out to be the difference in the end.”
And it prevented a potentially tense ending for the last-place Yankees, who had arrived home faltering from the West Coast after losing four in a row and six of seven.
Volpe said, “We just need to play better baseball.”