Wednesday afternoon in a 14-inning loss to the A’s, Robin Ventura called for six different sacrifice bunts. Perhaps one of them went well. Care to relive it?
Bunt #1 – Top of the 6th, runner on 2nd, 0 out, Alexei Ramirez up.
Ventura has a lighting fast runner on 2nd in De Aza, and the heart of his order coming up. Runs have been at a premium in the series at this point, but the 6th inning is a little early to start playing for one run with Ramirez, Dunn, and Konerko on the way. Also, rookie starter Jarrod Parker is nearing the end of his outing at this point, and this gave him a free out without the work.
Ramirez successfully executed the bunt, but Dunn and Konerko stranded De Aza. Alejandro’s a fast dude, Alexei doesn’t strike out much and there was no threat of a double play. It seems like the increase in certainty that he would reach 3rd bases was far less than the potential reward lost.
Bunt #2 – Top of the 7th, runner on 3rd, 1 out, Brent Morel up
Ventura seems to have picked up on the idea that Brent is uh, hitting poorly, and is increasingly asking him to do things at the plate that don’t qualify as hitting. This time he called a suicide squeeze. If Ventura was desperate enough for a run to bunt in the 6th, he’s sure as hell willing to call a squeeze in the 7th with Eduardo Escobar on deck. After all, what the hell is Morel going to do? Hit a moderately deep fly ball to left?
Well, Morel failed to make contact on the bunt, and when that happens on a suicide squeeze, the runner is typically doomed. As you can see, Kosuke Fukudome was doomed.
Which is why the bunter has to has to has to make contact. The pitch is outside here, and it would appear Morel thought it might go wild. It probably needs to be made clear to him that he has to dive across and get a piece of the ball, but a tough situation for everyone around.
Ventura’s post-game comments didn’t make the situation sound any clearer.
When asked why Morel didn’t make a more concerted effort to make contact, Ventura replied: “It was more of (Morel) was going to get it down first, and if it gets it down, Fukudome is going to run. So it’s just a little mix-up.”
So it was a safety squeeze?
“Sort of,” Ventura said. ”Not really.”
So it was a suicide squeeze call?
“Yeah,” Ventura smirked. “One got a suicide (signal), and one got the other one. It’s my fault.”
[EDIT: A second look reveals this to be an even weirder answer than previously thought. The idea of Morel getting the bunt down and Fukudome only then deciding whether to run is not how suicide squeezes work. More power to Ventura if he prefers to blame it on a signal mixup than say “Stupid Morel screwed everything up OMG I hate him so much!!!11”, but the way it reads presently doesn’t add up, and Gonzo did a good job picking it apart]
Bunt #3 – Top of the 8th, runner on 1st, 0 out, Alejandro De Aza up
Playing for one run is getting increasingly attractive as the innings wear on, but De Aza is as viable of a hitter as there is in the lineup, and is now being asked to move Eduardo Escobar up to 2nd base so that Alexei Ramirez can try to knock him in, when he wasn’t trusted to do the same thing two innings ago.
Moreover, A’s reliever Ryan Cook just walked Eduardo Escobar! Maybe waiting to see how far his control problems go is a prudent move here.
De Aza leaned in for a bunt, and Cook–not displaying the best control–plunked him in forearm. Since De Aza had squared up, it counted as a strike, yet accomplished the goal of moving up Escobar, who advanced on the carom off De Aza’s arm. Still wincing and grimacing, Alejandro struck out, and Ramirez and Dunn stranded Escobar.
Bunt #4 – Top of the 10th, runner on 1st, 0 out, Eduardo Escobar up
Brent Morel somehow got on base, Ventura has no confidence at all in Escobar, and needs a run, he calls for a bunt.
Eduardo Escobar apparently isn’t particularly great at bunting, though. He taps it softly in front of catcher Kurt Suzuki, who easily throws out Morel. There’s not a bevy of options on the bench, but Escobar’s usage does start to beg the question of why he’s even still in the lineup at this point of the game.
Bunt #5 – Top of the 12th, runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 out, A.J. Pierzynski up
Pierzynski is one of the hottest hitters on the team, and facing a relief pitcher working out of the stretch with no outs. Then again, A’s pitcher Jerry Blevins is a lefty and Ventura is playing for only one run, if the last four bunts didn’t already indicate such.
Pierzynski bails out on the attempt, while Lillibridge doesn’t get the memo about bailing and gets picked off of 2nd base when he drifts too far. There’s only so many times a botched set play can result in a runner being gunned down before it reflects poorly on the manager. It’s not many.
The double Rios hit right after Pierzynski would have scored Lillibridge.
Bunt #6 – Top of the 14th, runner on 1st, 0 out, Brent Morel up
Sure, why not at this point?
Viciedo advanced to 2nd, and later scored on Ramirez’s double. The first hit with runners in scoring position all game.
In sum, the combination of conservatism, not trusting the middle of his order, and poor execution of the plays he called don’t reflect well on Ventura, and is disappointing to see from someone who was thought to be more aggressive offensively than his predecessor. The scoring troubles all series clearly were an influence.