Don’t bunt to break up no-hitters, and don’t beat the Cleveland Indians. Those are the only two unwritten rules of baseball. It’s really simple to follow and definitely not convoluted in any way that might result in someone taking a small projectile in the back at 97 miles per hour.
The Angels broke both of them. They bunted to break up a perfectly good no-hitter, and they beat the Indians after 13 innings of mostly agony. The Indians should absolutely clear the benches next time they play, and I hope Commissioner Manfred is going to come down hard on these scoundrels.
I’m kidding of course — I don’t care about baseball’s unwritten rules because I’m not a whiny member of the Minnesota Twins (except for that second one, you really shouldn’t beat the Indians; it’s considered rude), but I would really rather not had the Los Angeles Angels ruin a perfectly good no-hitter. Not with a bunt, and certainly not with a Shohei Ohtani back-breaker two at-bats later.
As he often does, Corey Kluber was kruising through the game through five innings, racking up a surprisingly low number of swings and misses (only 10), but a fair amount of weak contact and pop-ups that didn’t leave the the city of Los Angeles. Until one did.
After 5.1 innings of no-hit baseball, Andrelton Simmons noticed that Jose Ramirez was playing a bit too far back at third base and decided to bunt his way aboard for the first Angels hit of the night. I’m not going to fault him — by all means, if you’re not a power hitter and you see your opening to get on base against a dominant pitcher like Corey Kluber, shoot your shot, my dude. Well, it worked, and he eventually made it to second base on a wild pitch and came home on yet another Ohtani dinger. The second of many, and hopefully the last against the Indians.
I’m sure eventually I’ll enjoy Ohtani — heck, it might even start next week — but not right now. In this early portion of his baseball career, he’s a Cleveland killer and I kind of hate him. One or two grand slams against the Royals and we’ll be good, though, Shohei. Get it done.
Rewinding the full 13-inning experience back to the first frame, the Indians almost did something pretty great. They managed to load the bases against Tyler Skaggs thanks to two singles and a walk from Edwin Encarnacion, but Yonder Alonso eventually ruined it with a double play straight back to the pitcher. At least he didn’t bunt his way to a double play in extra innings, that would be embarrassing. Oh hey, Rene Rivera fancy seeing you here. Sac bunts are bad, and they are especially bad when you royally screw them up like the Angels batter did in the 10th. Instead of, I don’t know, putting the ball literally anywhere else, he hit a weak ground ball to Cody Allen with two hands. To Cody’s credit, he knew to turn around immediately to throw out a deceptively fast Ohtani at second before Lindor flipped it to first for the rally-killing double play.
Prior to the Indians scoring their second run of the game in the fifth inning (are you enjoying this time-skipping? Listen, this was a long game and a lot happened, alright?), the Angels broke another unwritten rule. Maybe not an unwritten rule of baseball, but an unwritten rule of watchable baseball — they challenged a ticky-tacky play and tried to say that Francisco Lindor bounced off the base when he stole second base. These reviews are infuriating, and not just because of the World Series two years ago. There’s a line where being technically right isn’t important; baseball wasn’t designed to be analyzed by a 3,000,000 frame-per-second camera. If a player bounces a centimeter off the bag, maybe in the spirit of the game we should just let him be safe, dangit.
My simple fix to this bit of annoyance would be this: Any tag after the initial touch of a base is not reviewable. This means that a player can still be out if 1) the bounce is high enough that a human eye — i.e. the umpire — can see it or 2) a player completely over slides the back. Those are both still outs, but you can’t waste four minutes of my valuable time reviewing it because you want to be technically right.
Oh, Lindor was safe by the way. Suck it, Angels.
The outfield situation is still confirmed to be a mess. Even Bradley Zimmer’s laser throw to nail a runner at second wasn’t enough to make up for the way he and the rest of the outfielders have started the season. Zimmer himself went 1-for-5 tonight with three strikeouts. He, combined with his outfield mates Brandon Guyer, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Rajai Davis, went a combined 3-for-14 with five strikeouts. Zimmer’s most heartbreaking failure came in the top of the ninth when he came up with runners on first and second and just died at the plate. Even with an inconsistent strike zone working in his favor — as it did for Tribe batters all game long — he struck out swinging and wasn’t even close. He could have prevented this game from dragging on for four hours. He was the chosen one, and he failed us.
Zack Cozart may have ruined a perfectly good Wednesday with his 13th inning home run, but the good news is baseball returns to Cleveland on Friday. The next time I recap a game it’ll be recapping a game at Progressive Field against the Kansas City Royals, most likely with Michael Brantley in the lineup. That’s a good feeling.