The Angels beat the Mariners in the 10th inning Saturday thanks to a walkoff grand slam delivered by first baseman Kendry Morales. And that’s where the fun ended.
Morales got airborne as he neared a pile-up of Angels players at home plate and injured his ankle on the way down. He looked to be in a good deal of pain and had to be carted off the field after lying in the batter’s box for several minutes. The Halos didn’t reveal much information after the game, but X-rays eventually revealed a fracture in his lower left leg, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The 26-year-old Morales is batting .290 with a .346 on-base percentage, 11 home runs and 39 RBI in 51 games this year. There’s a strong chance that he could be out for several months.
The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.
The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.
In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.
Most of the time anyway.
Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:
One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.
The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.