Thursday, September 5, 2013
A bunt addiction burns the Reds
By Buster Olney
Every team practices bunting. Nobody does it in games more than the Reds.
There is not a one-size-fits-all rule about the sacrifice bunt, because not every situation is the same, not every hitter is the same, not every pitcher is the same, not every bunt attempt is the same. The factors in the equations change from pitch to pitch, inning to inning, from game to game. So it probably can’t be said with certainty that any single particular bunt try by the Reds on Wednesday night was a mistake.
But if you happened to see the last innings of the 16-inning grinder between the Cardinals and Reds and hung on long enough to see the St. Louis players celebrating the final out of a really important victory -- in which Matt Adams became the first player in major league history to club two homers after the 13th inning -- you couldn’t help but think Cincinnati blew it with the bunt along the way.
And they tried to bunt, over and over: Four different batters made an attempt, in the span of eight hitters over two innings. Which is not unusual for the Reds, who lead the majors in sacrifice bunts by a wide margin. Consider:
Bunt No. 1: After Adams hit a home run in the top of the 14th to give St. Louis a 4-3 lead, Ryan Ludwick singled to open the bottom of the 14th, opening the door for Reds manager Dusty Baker to insert his new secret weapon, pinch runner Billy Hamilton, who had swiped second on the first pitch against the Cards on Tuesday.
But Hamilton didn’t run on the first pitch Wednesday. Instead, Zack Cozart tried to bunt, which seemed odd, given that Hamilton has such a unique ability to take a base all by himself; why not let him try to steal before somebody burns an out with a bunt?
Cozart didn’t get the bunt down, Hamilton wound up stealing second on a subsequent pitch and scored on a single.
Bunt No. 2: Devin Mesoraco -- who doesn’t have a sacrifice bunt in his career -- then tried to drop one down to advance Cozart, and instead bunted back to the pitcher, to set up a fielder’s choice.
Phillips -- who has been red-hot in the past week -- turned to bunt, and advanced Choo to second. But the Cardinals may have gladly accepted that out, given Phillips’ recent burst of offense, and given that Votto was next to hit. He was 0-for-6 to that point in the game and had looked bad earlier in the game, and so Cardinals manager Mike Matheny immediately jogged to the mound quickly told Martinez and Yadier Molina what he wanted to do: Pitch to Votto, and pitch around Bruce, if there was an opportunity.
Votto bounced to the right side for the second out of the inning, and then the Cardinals walked Bruce.
Bunt No. 4: This was all on Chris Heisey. With Choo at third base and Martinez throwing his fastball as high as 99 mph, Heisey got a 1-1 count and squared late and tried to bunt the ball, with a jab. Choo -- surprised by the attempt, it appeared -- broke from third base.
But Heisey missed the ball, and Choo, caught in a rundown, was nailed, ending a half-inning that had started with such promise.
Martinez has tremendous stuff and maybe Heisey had determined that his best chance to put the ball in play was with a bunt. If so, his logic makes sense.
But when Adams homered in the top of the 16th and the Cardinals won, the Reds were left to wonder about what might have been in a crucial game, and whether all of the bunts were the best course of action.
AL West race: Oakland’s rout of the Rangers Wednesday looked like 2012 all over again, with the misplays by Texas outfielders battling the sun, and the sparse but raucous Coliseum crowd going nuts as the Athletics piled it on against Yu Darvish and some relievers with a bunch of homers.
Jarrod Parker has been in top form lately.
But after the game, Jarrod Parker mentioned over the phone that it felt different, because for a lot of the Oakland players, they’ve now been through this before. "We obviously have a little bit of know-how now," Parker said.
Oakland has won seven of his past eight starts, and Parker has won his past nine decisions -- partly, Parker believes, because he has been able to improve his fastball command along the way. Consider his month-by-month ERA:
He allowed two runs in six innings Wednesday, and now the Athletics are back into a first-place tie with Texas, with eight wins in their past 10 games, and all the momentum and the schedule working for them.
The Rangers’ remaining schedule: at the Angels, Pittsburgh, Oakland, at Tampa Bay, at Kansas City, Houston, the Angels.
Oakland’s remaining schedule: Houston, at Minnesota, at Texas, the Angels, Minnesota, at the Angels, at Seattle.
• The Red Sox piled up the home runs: Eight in all, on a day when there were a lot of home runs hit. From Elias: David Ortiz had 10 total bases Wednesday night, his 11th game with double-digit total bases with the Red Sox. That passes Manny Ramirez and Ted Williams for most in team history. Carl Yastrzemski is one behind them with nine.
Also, a list of players with 2,000 hits and 400 home runs and their total seasons played with the Red Sox:
David Ortiz 11
Manny Ramirez 8
Andre Dawson 2
Carl Yastrzemski 23
Ted Williams 19
Jimmie Foxx 7
Babe Ruth 6
48: There were 48 home runs hit Wednesday, the second most in a single day of MLB action over the past six seasons (50 on April 30, 2013).
19,085: The 48 home runs combined to travel 19,085 feet, with Wil Myers and Chris Iannetta sharing honors of the longest home run at 431 feet.
8: The Red Sox led all teams with eight home runs, tying a franchise single-game record (July 4, 1977). David Ortiz had the longest home run, a 420-foot blast in the fourth inning.
370: The average distance (in feet) of Pablo Sandoval's three home runs, including his two shortest home runs this season (366 and 362 feet). The average distance of Sandoval's three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series was 412 feet.
• The NL Rookie of the Year voting dynamic with Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig is sort of like a presidential race between two candidates with very different media backing.
Fernandez has the better qualifications, as voters ask the question of who is the best rookie in the NL, but almost no PR bounce because he plays on the Marlins and nobody really pays attention to them.
Puig, on the other hand, is a really good candidate with all of the advantages of being highlighted nightly while playing for the Dodgers.