When a team is involved in an extra-innings game, they’re looking to score runs in any way possible. A bird catching a fly ball and dropping it into the stands. A sinkhole opening up and sucking the outfielders into the earth as a ball comes their way. Or even just an old fashioned home run.
But how about a walk-off win on a ball deflected off a player’s butt? On Tuesday night that was good enough for the Los Angeles Angels, who won 3-2 in 11 innings against the New York Yankees thanks to Angels left fielder Eric Young Jr. and Yankees reliever Ben Heller. Or Ben Heller’s butt, actually.
It was the bottom of the 11th inning, and Young came to the plate with runners on first and third and two outs. He saw one pitch from Heller, a ball, before smacking the second pitch right up the middle. It was so up the middle that Heller was right in the ball’s path. He turned his back to the plate as soon as he realized it was coming at him (good reflexes, Ben) and it smacked right off his backside.
Heller’s butt deflected the ball toward the third-base side, where there was now a huge, unmanned hole. Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious had been in that area just seconds earlier, but had moved toward second when it looked like the ball was going to roll up the middle of the field. Gregorious made a great effort to snag the ball and somehow get an out, but it was too late. The deflection had given Andrelton Simmons enough time to run home and score the winning walk-off run.
This was the second time that Young got to play the hero in Tuesday night’s game. With the Angels down 2-1 in the eighth inning, Young hit a game-tying home run. Three innings later, he’d be the hero. The butt-deflecting hero.
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