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Gio Urshela stays in game after freak play, hits go-ahead HR in Yankees' win over A's

A trainer checks on New York Yankees' Gio

A trainer checks on New York Yankees' Gio Urshela after a bat splinter hit him in the face during the second inning against the Oakland Athletics in an MLB baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, June 19, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

There were things we’ve never seen before. There were things we’re quite used to seeing. And Gio Urshela was in the middle of both as the Yankees came back from a three-run deficit against Oakland for an eventful 7-5 victory before 23,985 on Saturday at the Stadium.

It seemed as if Urshela might have to leave the game after the second inning when he hit a broken-bat ground ball and a shard of the bat flew up and struck him in the right eye. He was accompanied off the field by a member of the training staff and did not immediately return to the field to warm up for the Oakland third.

But he dashed onto the field before the Athletics' Elvis Andrus dug in, and his presence in the game proved pivotal. With the score tied in the eighth, Urshela led off with his ninth home run, a 424-foot shot onto the netting above Monument Park. One out later, DJ LeMahieu added a two-run single for a 7-4 lead.

"We [were] fighting all day long, losing and then we come back," said Urshela, who also had a run-scoring single. "That’s the team I know . . . the team we can be. We always stay positive, and when we do the right things, it’s going to help us."

Since joining the Yankees for the 2019 season, Urshela has hit 36 home runs; 16 of them have either tied the score or given the Yankees the lead.

"We probably overstate it, but I do think there’s definitely players that relish being in a big moment," manager Aaron Boone said. "[They] control their heartbeat [or] add focus, the bigger the situation is. He has been a guy, since we've had him certainly, that in the biggest spots, you love him up there . . . It's a really good player that's confident in his ability."

The Yankees trailed 2-0 after solo homers by Tony Kemp and Matt Chapman and 4-1 after a two-run single by Matt Olson in the fifth. Gary Sanchez's 416-foot home run into the second deck in leftfield in the sixth and two-out RBI singles by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the seventh tied it at 4-4. Sanchez has hit five homers in his past nine games.

Aroldis Chapman allowed Ramon Laureano's two-out RBI single in the ninth and allowed the go-ahead run to come to the plate before striking out Matt Chapman on three pitches — the last one a 103.4-mph fastball — for his 15th save.

Aroldis Chapman issued a one-out walk to Mark Canha, and plate umpire Sean Barber’s ball four call on a 3-and-1 pitch so incensed Boone that he was ejected from the dugout for voicing his displeasure. Two-out singles by Olson and Laureano produced a run and brought up Matt Chapman.

"Credit to them for stringing some tough at-bats . . . to give themselves an opportunity there," Boone said, "but it's good to see Chappie now a few times in a row kind of find his groove again."

Judge, Stanton, Urshela and Clint Frazier (two doubles) each had two hits for the Yankees, but their unsung hero was lefty reliever Nestor Cortes Jr. for not letting the game get away.

Domingo German looked good through four innings but was removed after Olson's two-run single put runners at the corners with none out in the fifth.

Cortes struck out Laureano and Chapman and retired Sean Murphy on a fly to center to escape the jam and start three scoreless innings of relief. "I came in to try to [put out] a fire," he said.

Urshela came up in the second with runners on first and second and none out. He was so stunned when the shard hit him in the eye that he trotted to first as Oakland turned a 5-4-3 double play.

"I’ve never seen that before," Urshela said. "I saw the wood go into my eyes. I didn’t even see the ball. I didn’t even see where I was running. There was a little pain. Thank God I was all right."

The Yankees have won four of their last five games, and all four wins have come after trailing.

"In the last, last few days, things are changing for the [opposing] pitchers out there," Frazier said. "I think some pitchers don't feel as comfortable as they have and we're taking advantage of that . . . We know we're a really good team and we've got to perform that way."

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