Matt Albers' game-winning trek around the bases has been immortalized on a baseball card — at least temporarily.
Topps Baseball is selling a card online through Friday of Albers' moment, one that rallied the White Sox to a 2-1 victory in 13 innings over the New York Mets and had them fired up afterward.
Albers' first hit since 2007 in his first plate appearance since 2009 was no cheapie, either. On the sixth pitch against Logan Verrett, Albers ripped a fastball that two-hopped to the wall in left-center field. With no slide, Albers barely beat the strong throw of Mets center fielder Juan Lagares to second. He also somehow managed to defy physics and keep his foot glued to the bag when second baseman Neil Walker applied the tag.
"He almost joined the cadaver club on the ankle," manager Robin Ventura said. "It wasn’t very good getting into second, but it was good enough. Just the contact is amazing. He hit it hard. You never know with pitchers."
The fact that it was a pitcher who provided the magic in a 1-all contest in the 13th inning had Albers' teammates going mad in the dugout. From selecting a bat that worked to the moment his teammates learned he hits on the opposite side from which he throws — "allegedly, I'm left handed," he told Dioner Navarro — to Albers' trip around the bases, the White Sox dugout was in hysterics.
"They were laughing," Albers said. "They didn’t think I could do that. It was pretty funny. But I did that, wild pitch and scored on a sac fly. Luckily, I was a starter for a while. It’s been a while since I started. I kind of had done that before, didn’t feel too uncomfortable at the plate or on the bases. I’m not very good, but didn’t feel too uncomfortable."
Ventura, who cameras caught smiling when Albers skidded into second, described the atmosphere in his dugout as straight out of Little League. Navarro yelled from the top step when Albers reached second and then apologized to Walker for not sliding. And Mat Latos, who originally gave Albers his heavier bat only to have it rejected, pounded on the railing as Albers scored on a Jose Abreu sacrifice fly while teammates hooted and hollered in the background.
"Any time you’re in extra innings, it gets a little weird," Ventura said. "But when a pitcher gets a hit and gets on base, it gets fun. That’s part of the game that I think guys enjoy. They’re like kids. It can be like Little League, guys jumping around. When he got to third it was even more so, and then the fact he can score. It’s like Little League. It really is. I think they enjoy it just as much. People don’t see that part of it. They’re professional and everything, but they were like kids."
Albers has proven to be one of the team's most youthful players all season. His celebrations got more snd more spirited with each instance when he extended his franchise-record scoreless games streak early in the season. Later on, Albers' celebration in the dugout in Toronto after making a spectacular play on a bunt, one in which he mentioned his cat-like skills, was captured on camera for all to see.
While he temporarily shelved any emotions Wednesday in order to record the final three outs of the game — "he composed himself," Ventura said. "He didn't get all crazy" — Albers let loose afterward in the handshake line.
It was a moment Albers hadn't experienced much in May. During their 4-15 stretch, Albers went 0-4 with a 11.57 ERA in 10 games. But during a 23-10 run to open the season, Albers was 1-0 with a 0.57 ERA and seven holds in 15 games.
He has been one of many catalysts for the team's success this season. Navarro said Wednesday's experience was significant for everyone given all that Albers and his teammates have gone through the past three weeks.
"Really super happy for Albers," Navarro said. "Sometimes stuff like that has to happen to bring the team even closer. We’re really happy."