It was just the way Ron Washington drew it up.
Ian Kinsler, the Rangers’ No. 3 hitter, bunted two runners with none out in the bottom of the third with Texas up 2-1 on Houston tonight. An intentional walk to Adrian Beltre followed. Then came the 11 runs.
Here’s the whole gory inning:
– Leonys Martin reaches on bunt single
– Elvis Andrus singles
– Ian Kinsler sacrifices
– Adrian Beltre intentionally walks
– A.J. Pierzynski singles (2 runs)
– Alex Rios singles
– Mitch Moreland doubles (2 runs)
– Jurickson Profar walks
(Pitching change: Wade LeBlanc replaces Lucas Harrell)
– David Murphy reaches on error (2 runs)
– Leonys Martin walks
– Elvis Andrus reaches on error (1 run)
– Ian Kinsler singles (2 runs)
– Adrian Beltre grounds out (1 run)
– A.J. Pierzynski singles (1 run)
– Alex Rios lines out
It was the biggest inning by any team this season (the previous high was nine runs), and none of it would have happened without the bunt. Maybe. Who really knows?
Well, I do know one thing: the Astros shouldn’t be intentionally walking hitters in the third innings of games. They especially shouldn’t have right-handed pitchers intentionally walk right-handed hitters to face left-handed hitters in the third innings of games (Beltre was also intentionally walked in the first. It kind of worked then, though the Rangers did score a run afterwards).
All 11 runs scored after that intentional walk. The Rangers ended up sending 15 hitters to the plate, only one of whom (Moreland) actually picked up an extra-base hit.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.