Sentences we did not expect to be typing when this season started:
Gio Urshela and Luke Voit have a chance to be the starting corner infielders for the American League in the All-Star Game.
Starters will be revealed on Thursday night after a run-off election held on MLB.com. In baseball’s latest attempt to drum up interest in the Midsummer Classic, a first round of voting was held in which the top three at each position (top nine for outfielders) advanced to Round Two.
Urshela finished third at third base. Voit finished third at first base.
If enough Yankees fans click on their names between Wednesday at noon and Thursday at 4 p.m., general manager Brian Cashman’s two bargain-bin finds will take their place in the AL lineup in Cleveland on July 9.
If not, it doesn’t take away from what the two have built in the Bronx, and continued to build on Saturday night as the Yankees defeated the Astros, 7-5, for their eighth win in a row.
Urshela, whose playing time has been reduced since Didi Gregorius’ return, hit a two-run homer to right in the fifth inning for the Yankees’ first hit and the first runs of the game.
It was Urshela’s sixth home run and gave him 34 RBIs and (at the time) a .309 average. Not bad for the 27-year-old, who was a career .225 hitter in parts of three seasons with Cleveland and Toronto before the Yankees acquired him for cash from the Blue Jays last Aug. 4.
That transaction was noticed by few outside Urshela’s family. The same could be said for the July 29, 2018 trade that brought Voit to the Yankees from the Cardinals’ Triple-A club.
The trade, when announced, was thought to be notable more for the Yankees’ decision to deal away lefthander Chasen Shreve, who went along with righthander Giovanny Gallegos for Voit and some international bonus slot money.
Voit, now 28, was initially overmatched in his first go-round as a Yankee. He was sent to the minors, returned, and homered his way into Yankees fans’ hearts.
Consider what happened on Saturday night. Voit, batting in the coveted third spot in the powerful Yankees order, was serenaded by “Luuuuuuke” cries all night by the crowd of 46,034.
The barrel-chested first baseman made a diving stop to rob Josh Reddick of a potential ground-ball double down the line for the first out of the fourth inning. Voit then reached into the camera well near the Yankees’ dugout to catch a pop-up hit by the next batter, Tyler White.
In the bottom of the fourth, Voit reached first when centerfielder Jake Marisnick dropped his fly ball to right-center for an error.
Voit had stopped at first but went to second when Reddick, the rightfielder, grabbed the ball and whiffed on throwing it to second. The ball slipped out of Reddick’s hand and traveled about 10 feet for a second error.
“Luuuuuuke!” the crowd exclaimed, as if Voit had willed the comical double-error to happen.
After the Astros tied the score at 2 in the sixth on Reddick’s two-run homer, Voit contributed a single to the Yankees’ two-run bottom half. Giancarlo Stanton drove in the runs to make it 4-2 with a single off the glove of third baseman Yuli Gurriel.
Stanton won’t be going to the All-Star Game after spending most of the season on the injured list. He’s a four-time All-Star, so he probably won’t be all that upset to miss it.
Urshela and Voit would be thrilled to go to Cleveland. Voit also is hoping for an invite to the Home Run Derby, where he could face off with the Mets’ Pete Alonso. That, come to think of it, probably will be much more entertaining and memorable than the game itself.