Not only is Travis Hafner hitting .319 with a 1.120 OPS for the Yankees, he’s turned back to the clock to when he was a bunting, base-stealing machine. Well, actually he’s never been either of those things. Until yesterday, that is.
Hafner stole second base without a throw, which was his first steal since 2010 and just his fifth steal since 2005. He also tried to bunt for a single with two outs in the ninth inning and the Yankees down 8-4, with the idea being getting on base via any means necessary by beating the Blue Jays’ shift.
Instead he bunted the ball back to the mound and Darren Oliver threw him out at first base to end the game.
Andy McCullough of the Newark Star Ledger asked Hafner to recall the last time he tried to bunt for a hit and the 36-year-old designated hitter could think of just one instance:
I tried it one time, maybe like three or four years ago. We were down a couple in the last inning, and they threw a ball, so I pulled it back. Then [the coaches] took [the sign] off.
Sure enough, Fan Graphs shows that yesterday was the first time in 12 seasons and 1,116 games that Hafner actually got a bunt down.
With his team trailing 8-3 to begin the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Astros, Indians third baseman José Ramirez eventually won a 17-pitch at-bat against closer Ken Giles, ripping a double off of the wall in right field. The Indians would go on to score five runs on seven hits to tie the game against Giles and Hector Rondon. Ramirez almost won the game in his second at-bat of the ninth inning, but first basebamn Yuli Gurriel made a terrific diving catch on a line drive otherwise headed for the right field corner.
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record for the longest at-bat last month, seeing 21 pitches against the Angels’ Jaime Barria. The Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez sfaw 20 pitches from the Indians’ Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, which was the previous record. Kevin Bass saw 19 pitches from the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1988. There have also been five 18-pitch at-bats from Brian Downing, Bip Roberts, Alex Cora, Adam Kennedy, and Marcus Semien.
Sunday’s game wound up going 14 innings. The Astros pulled ahead 9-8 in the top of the 13th on a solo home run from Evan Gattis. However, the Indians’ Yonder Alonso responded with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 13th to re-knot the game at 9-9. Greg Allen then lifted a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the 14th to give the Indians a 10-9 win.
After Sunday’s effort, Ramirez is batting .292/.389/.605 with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, 34 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, his 3.5 Wins Above Replacement ranks third across baseball behind Mike Trout (4.4) and Mookie Betts (4.1). They’re the only players at three wins or above.