In the wake of another celebratory Gatorade soaking for Gleyber Torres, thanks to his second walk-off winner in Tuesday’s comeback 6-5 victory (in 10 innings) over the Astros, Brett Gardner was asked what it was once like to be a young player, bouncing back from mistakes to deliver in a crucial spot.
Gardner interrupted the reporter almost immediately.
“I was in college when I was his age,” Gardner said. “It took me longer to get here.”
We’re not the only ones marveling at Torres’ surprising maturity for a 21-year-old, his uncommon poise when the spotlight burns brightest. His fellow Yankees can’t believe it, either.
As Gardner suggested, patroling the outfield for the College of Charleston didn’t quite come with the same pressure as standing in the middle of Yankee Stadium, staring down Astros reliever Brad Peacock, with the diehards from a crowd of 45,458 on their feet, screaming, in the 10th inning.
Some might say what Torres did, punching the winning single to rightfield, will go down as another career-defining moment for the rookie second baseman, following up the May 6 walk-off homer against the Indians. For Torres, however, it was just another Tuesday. Another game, another chance to help his Yankees. A job he’s getting very good at in a hurry.
A few hours before Tuesday’s first pitch, Torres was named the AL’s player of the week, with a slash line of .368/.429/1.158, five home runs and nine RBIs in the previous six games. A more recent sampling of his play, however, wasn’t quite as flattering. Torres had a rough Memorial Day, with a throwing error that led to an unearned run, as well as getting picked off second in the Yankees’ 5-1 loss. And before Tuesday night’s 10th-inning heroics, Torres made two more errors, although he did give the Yankees a 2-1 lead with his RBI single in the second inning.
It’s not unusual for youngsters to hang their heads during a tough day in the field, to carry those defensive miscues with them to the plate, and distract their focus from the game at hand. But that’s not happening with Torres — or fellow 23-year-old rookie Miguel Andujar — as the duo continue to become key performers in the Yankees’ 34-17 start.
“They make mistakes and they move on,” Aaron Boone said. “I think it’s just part of who they are. They’re very consistent in the way they go about things. They play the game with a lot of confidence.”
We’re still months away from October baseball, and what is shaping up to be another classic September battle with the Red Sox. But Tuesday’s clash with the Astros, the defending world champs, was as important as it gets in late May, especially with the recent playoff history between the two clubs.
When you factor in how the middle of the Yankees’ order virtually disappeared, the contributions of Torres and Andujar — still positioned as the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters — basically carried them to the improbable win. Greg Bird, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez went 2-for-15 with seven strikeouts.
Torres, as well as Andujar, have been forced to be saviors on any given night. On Tuesday, there were two outs in the 10th when Andjuar pulled a double into leftfield, and Torres had to shake off a questionable zone by plate umpire Tripp Gibson. Torres was visibly upset after Peacock’s 1-and-0 fastball was called a strike, exchanging words with the ump, then walking outside the box to cool down.
“I thought it was a ball, but I don’t control that,” Torres said afterward. “I just take a breath and try to stay focused. To do my job. I’m just waiting my opportunity to help the team.”
And he took advantage of that chance, again. Torres fouled off a 2-and-2 fastball to stay alive, then reached down to rip a 96-mph heater that skipped in front of rightfielder George Springer to send Andujar home. After crossing first base, Torres was mobbed, then got his bucket bath. “It’s amazing what these kids can do when they get here,” Gardner said. “There’s a lot of composure, but not cockiness.”
Let’s not forget clutch, too.