With the game tied at six in the bottom of the ninth inning, runners on first and second, and no one out, Terry Francona called for a sacrifice bunt. Perhaps bunting isn't your style. You might feel that the American League should avoid punt National League strategies. Maybe you share the same disdain that Kent Murphy does for bunting (NSFW audio).
There are a couple of reasons why the bunt isn't so bad an idea here, even if you make fun of kids who practice them at the batting cages. The Nationals had already botched one sacrifice bunt play in the inning, allowing Chris Gimenez to reach base after a Ryan Zimmerman throwing error.
Poor Zimmerman has nowhere to hide his yips in the National League. The throw is far enough off the mark that Naquin scores from second base, turning a sacrifice hit into the equivalent of a two-run double. This set the stage for yet another bunt. It's one of the situations where a sacrifice can make sense; the Indians needed to score only one run, and teams have a slightly higher chance of doing so with runners on second and third with one out than with runners on first and second and no outs. Being a gentleman and a fine baseball player, Rajai Davis agreed to lay down the bunt. He could have swung for the fences and won the game with one good cut, but instead he chose to accept a few high-fives and butt-slaps in the dugout, and hope his teammates could convert the opportunity.
Except that Trickster Rajai found a way to steal some of the limelight. If you missed the game and haven't read about the play yet, I won't spoil it for you. Suffice it to say for now that I have absolutely no idea why this bunt isn't in the MLB.tv highlights list, and if it's not on SportsCenter's top ten, I will send a a strongly-worded letter to Bristol with more effort behind it than Sam Seaborn's birthday greeting.
Papelbon checks Gimenez at second, and just before he begins his delivery, SS Danny Espinosa bolts toward third base like he's trying to steal the damn thing.
AND THEN DAVIS POPS UP THE BUNT WHAT NO RAJAI HOW COULD YOU — —
... POSSIBLY LAY DOWN SUCH A GLORIOUSLY PLACED BLOOP YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD.
As detailed on the Indians broadcast, the Nationals knew a bunt would be on here. They called for the "wheel" play, where the shortstop sprints toward third while both corner infielders charge the plate. The goal is to quickly field any bunt and throw out the lead runner, rendering the sacrifice a sabotage. In this case, Espinosa might have broken too soon, which gave Davis just enough time to plan an escape route.
Jonathan Papelbon, the National's closer, entered the bottom of the ninth with a two-run lead. He exited a tie game after allowing a two walks, a double, and two sacrifices that turned into hits/non-out sacrifices/future Little League instructional videos. How did the rest of the Nationals' defense feel about it?
When your teammates are so shocked that most of them have frozen into place, I imagine that the clubhouse after the game gets pretty frigid as well. No updates at this time on the status of his teammates' throats.
So, did Rajai Davis actually plan to pop the ball over Anthony Rendon's head? Or, instead of being a magnificent bastard, is he simply a lucky one, a man that should be the goat of the evening rather than one of the heroes?
Rajai Davis said he pushed his last inning bunt a little bit harder when he saw the Nationals running the wheel. pic.twitter.com/ESvJexDlmu— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) July 27, 2016
"I don't like laying bunts with people in my face" and "I guess it was a slug bunt" are good enough explanations for me. After the ordeal, Francisco Lindor slapped a single through the right side of the infield, capping a 3-run come-from-behind win. I'm not sure that there's a better way to start a homestand. Right Rajai?
I'd kill to know what song is playing in his head right here.