The scars have yet to heal from baseball’s first unwritten rule controversy in 2018, but we might already have another on our hands. In the fifth inning of Wednesday’s game, Los Angeles Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons bunted to break up a no-hitter against Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber.
With one out in the inning, Simmons noticed third baseman José Ramírez was playing deeper than usual. On the first pitch, Simmons bunted the ball down the third base line. Simmons was fast enough to beat out Ramírez’s throw. Just like that, Kluber’s no-hitter was over.
The hit seemed to throw Kluber off his game for the rest of the inning. After striking out Luis Valbuena, Kluber allowed a game-tying two-run home run to Shohei Ohtani. The next batter, Martin Maldonado, drove a ball deep off the wall in center, but was thrown out at second after Bradley Zimmer played the ball perfectly. After not hitting Kluber all game, the Angels managed to make hard contract against him twice after Simmons’ bunt.
Simmons’ run proved important too as the Angels would win 3-2 in 13 innings on Zack Cozart’s walk-off home run.
Simmons’ tactic is considered a no-no among baseball purists. They believe it’s cheap to try and bunt for a hit during a no-hitter. If someone is going to play spoiler, they should do it while swinging the bat.
But Simmons proved why that line of thinking is foolish. Simmons’ job as a hitter is to get on base. His larger job, as a member of the Angels, is to win the game. His bunt hit put the Angels in a better position to do that. Without it, they would not have tied things up in the fifth inning.
It also wasn’t a cheap play. Simmons wisely realized Ramírez was playing too far back at third. He saw an opportunity to take advantage of Cleveland’s defensive set-up and it worked. Simmons should be applauded for his smarts.
The Minnesota Twins were involved in a somewhat similar situation Sunday. With pitcher Jose Berrios working on a one-hitter in the ninth, Baltimore Orioles catcher Chance Sisco dropped down a bunt to beat the shift with his team trailing by seven runs. The Twins were not happy, saying it was “not a good play” and “not good for baseball.”
The public opinion in that instance was that the Twins were in the wrong. If the team was still employing a shift up by seven runs, Sisco was allowed to try and take advantage of that. Also, people recognized that bunting during a one-hitter when your team is trailing is a dumb unwritten rule that the Twins made up so they could justify their anger.
While some fans — and maybe some Cleveland players — will be mad, Simmons gave his team a much better chance to win the game with his quick-thinking. Is he really going to care that people think his hit was cheap if it gets the Angels a small step closer to the postseason?
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