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More on last night’s game

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate the Bunt

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

There were all sorts of significant moments in last night’s game but let’s try to limit it to three.

Bottom of the ten

Joel Payamps gets us out of the top of the inning without a run-scoring. Joel’s second high leverage spot of the season. I think there should be a rule saying that if Joel can get through the inning without that runner on second scoring, we should just be awarded the win.

And we are in almost the perfect spot. Leadoff man on second, best hitters in the lineup due up. Gotta score, right?

Bo ground the ball to the right side, moving up the runner. Same effect as a bunt.

Rays walk Vlad. Who wouldn’t?

Teoscar Hernandez up, and Buck and Pat say there is no one they would rather have coming up in that spot than Teoscar.

I don’t know. I’d pick Vlad. And, obviously, so would the Rays; they walked him in that spot. Beyond Vlad, I’d rather have Semien. From there, plus or minus, I’d rather have the guys least likely to strike out. Teoscar has brought his strikeout rate down (pretty small sample size yet, let’s wait a while before deciding that this is a fundamental change and not just a good stretch). But Teoscar can hit the ball in the air, which would be the preferable choice.

Anyway, Teoscar chases, well off the plate, for the strikeout. Being fair, there was a ton of movement on that pitch. Enough movement that could have brought Buck and Pat back to the stick-em discussion, had they chose. And Randal popped out. Very sad.

Top of the Eleventh

Payamps out for a second inning. And to make things more challenging, Joel walks the first batter to bring Ji-Man Choi up with runners on first and second. But Choi strikes out. Kevin Keirmaier flies out deep to center, Jonathan Davis makes a terrific throw that comes within a whisker of getting Joey Wendle tagging up. Davis has a much better arm than I would have given him credit.

Then we intentionally walk Randy Arozarena to load the bases. I’m not a fan. Loading the bases puts a ton of pressure on the pitcher to throw strikes. And it is even more stressful when you have a reliever who doesn’t have the firmest grasp of the strike zone and is at the end of his second inning of work.

Sure enough, Payamps misses with the first three pitches, and he’s going to have to groove some pitches. First, I was going to call it a batting practice fastball, but it was 95 mph. It didn’t matter. Brett Phillips wasn’t going to swing at it. Next pitch, again 95, slightly higher, but still center, swing, and a miss. Gotta be a third fastball. Nope, slider, at the top of the zone, thankfully a strike.

So you could say the intentional walk to load the bases worked. For the flip of that, see the twelfth inning: intentional walk to load the bases, and Jeremy Beasley grooves one to Francisco Mejia, and, well, you know.

Bottom of the Eleventh

Let’s start with ‘I hate the sac bunt.’ I hate it more with a runner on second (already in scoring position). I hate it even more with 2-strikes on the batter.

Anyway, to set it up. Randal Grichuk is on second. The Rays intentionally walk Rowdy Tellez. Now intentionally walking Rowdy is an interesting move. I mean, Charlie has been pinch-hitting Santiago Espinal for Rowdy, which seems like a big neon sign saying ‘don’t intentionally walk this guy.’

So we have runners on first and second, no outs, and the aforementioned Santiago Espinal is up. And we try to bunt. And, with a 1-0 count, he bunts foul. And, with a 2-1 count, he bunts foul. And, you and I, we are intelligent people, we know he’s not going to bunt with two strikes.

He bunts with two strikes. Foul.

I think it would have caused all sorts of fun if Espinal showed bunt and then swung away with everybody about 5 feet from the plate. But then I would have liked anything more than a sac bunt attempt. Maybe we could have a rule. If a player has ever been used to pinch hit for anyone, he never is asked to bunt?