Wanting to reward the guy who caught his perfect game against the Rays last year, Mariners starter Felix Hernandez sent A’s catcher John Jaso a Rolex before the two squared off Monday.
Hernandez had “Perfect Game ” and “8/15/12” inscribed on the watch, which was delivered via a clubhouse employee about 90 minutes before first pitch. Jaso was traded from Seattle to Oakland in the offseason as part of the three-team Michael Morse deal.
“It’s pretty heavy. It’s got to be real,” Jaso told MLB.com’s Jane Lee. “The watch I own, I think it’s a Timex, so this is a bit of an upgrade.”
Despite the kind gesture, Jaso wasn’t feeling especially magnanimous during the game; he doubled in the fourth for Oakland’s first hit of the game off Hernandez. That came after he told CSNBayArea.com’s Casey Pratt he wouldn’t have much help for his new teammates in the hitting department:
“What does he go to for his strikeout pitch? A change up? A curveball? A slider? I don’t want to say watch out for his change up and then he’s flipping curveballs up there,” Jaso said.
King Felix did, in fact, have the last laugh tonight, throwing 7 2/3 scoreless innings in the Mariners’ 2-0 victory.
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.