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Alex Gordon flashes leather in Royals' 7-4 win over Angels

5/25/2014

By Bill Shaikin

By Bill Shaikin

McClatchy-Tribune

The home run that flies deep into the night. The fastball that triggers a 100-mph reading on the radar gun. The throw that nails a runner trying to take the extra base.

Those are feats of skill you can see just about every day at a ballpark near you. That they might be common among the greatest baseball players in the world does not make them any less impressive.

But what Alex Gordon did Saturday night at Angel Stadium, well, that was pretty special. It was a play made for the highlight reels, the kind of play that happens so rarely that you await a replay not to appreciate the play, but to understand just what the heck happened.

The game was decided in the 13th inning, in what the Angels might call dreadfully ordinary fashion. The Kansas City Royals scored three times against rookie Mike Morin on a double, two singles, two bunts and a throwing error for a 7-4 victory.

But the play of the game belonged to Gordon, and to a much earlier hour in the five-hour game.

The Royals took a 3-0 lead, and then the Angels started to chip away. In the fourth inning, Erick Aybar hit a two-run home run, cutting the Kansas City lead to 3-2.

Mike Trout led off the fifth inning with a home run, his second in two nights and 10th of the season, to tie the score, 3-3. Then Albert Pujols came to bat, and then came the play.

Pujols launched a fly ball deep to left field, and for a moment it appeared the Angels might have back-to-back home runs.

Gordon, the Kansas City left fielder and a three-time Gold Glove winner, retreated to the wall and leaped for the ball.

He caught it, for a split-second.

As he hit the fence, the ball caromed in and out of his glove, then glanced off his head, shoulder, and cheek. Gordon stumbled and fell to the ground, but he kept his eye on the ball.

He grabbed the ball with his bare hand once, and then twice, but failed to hold onto it. Finally, as he sat on the warning track, and just before the ball could hit the ground, Gordon opened his glove as the ball dropped in.

"I've never caught a ball like that, juggling it like that," Gordon said.

James Shields, the Kansas City pitcher, was so impressed that he flashed the sign for a touchdown, as if Gordon were an NFL receiver who had snared a wobbly pass and still landed in the end zone.

Gordon wore a bemused smile on his face. Shields tipped his cap toward Gordon, and the left fielder responded by tapping his cap.

"That was an unbelievable effort," Shields said.

"Phenomenal play," Kansas City Manager Ned Yost said.

This all was wonderful theater, an amazing out -- but, wait, that was Angels Manager Mike Scioscia emerging from the dugout. The Angels challenged the play and, lo and behold, the slow motion revealed that the ball had "scraped against the panel" of the fence, Scioscia said.

"Did I know it went off the wall? No," Gordon said, "but I didn't think it did."

That turned the play from an out into a ground-rule double. Pujols later scored the Angels' fourth run, and without it the game would have ended in nine innings.

"Bummer," Gordon said. "The game would have been a lot shorter."

Gordon still can tell his children about the play.

He just doesn't have to tell them about the instant replay.