White Sox reliever Matt Albers stirred up social media earlier this season when he screamed "like a cat" to nobody in particular in the Sox dugout to punctuate a nice play in the field. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound right-hander said he was joking because position players don't give pitchers enough credit for being athletic.
On Wednesday, Matt "the Cat" Albers became Matt "the Bat."
In the 13th inning at Citi Field, Albers turned his first plate appearance in seven years into a cause for a Sox dugout celebration reminiscent of Little League when he led off with a double to left-center field off Mets reliever Logan Verrett.
After making it to third on a wild pitch, he scored on Jose Abreu's sacrifice fly to center field for the winning run in a 2-1 Sox victory. Around the offensive heroics, he pitched two scoreless innings to earn the victory as the Sox won their first series since May 6-8.
"They were laughing. They didn't think I could do that," Albers said of his teammates. "Luckily, I was a starter for a while. … I'm not very good (hitting), but I didn't feel too uncomfortable."
Sox manager Robin Ventura said Albers was ready to go when the time came to hit, which he does left-handed. He borrowed catcher Dioner Navarro's bat and helmet.
Albers, 33, last recorded a hit in the majors in 2007 when he started 18 games for the Astros and recorded two singles in 29 at-bats. He said he almost bowled over second baseman Neil Walker because he didn't slide.
"I was thinking about it, and then I was like, 'I'm not sure if I can do this,'" Albers said. "I was like, 'Sorry, man, I don't know how to slide.'"
After scoring the run, he then had to finish off the game in the 13th, and he hadn't had much success on the mound recently. After an excellent first month, he was 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in May.
He issued a two-out walk — the Sox's 13th of the game — but prompted pinch-hitter Kevin Plawecki to ground out to end it.
Matt Albers and Robin Ventura on the White Sox's victory over the Mets.
"Any time you're in extra innings, it gets a little weird but when a pitcher gets a hit and gets on base, it gets fun," Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "That's part of the game guys enjoy. They're like kids. It can be like Little League, guys jumping around.
"Everybody is happy for him knowing the struggles were there and knowing he'll be back."
The Sox bullpen pitched eight scoreless innings Wednesday — its most since 1995 — on top of four Tuesday to secure back-to-back victories for the first time since May 22-23. Nate Jones and David Robertson also pitched two scoreless innings apiece to help fuel a turnaround from the bullpen's collapse in three straight games in Kansas City last weekend.
The Sox defense turned five double plays to help negate the 13 walks.
"As tough as this road trip started off, and as crazy as this game was, it's a great win for us going into an off day," Ventura said.
Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez gave up one run over five innings. Todd Frazier hit his 17th home run in the seventh off Mets starter Jacob deGrom to tie the game at 1-1. Abreu recorded his first RBI since May 18.
"That was a very special and beautiful moment for me," Abreu said through a team interpreter. "When you're passing through a bad moment, you have to step up."