The Rays are by far the hottest team in baseball.
With young right-hander Chris Archer yielding only one run over seven innings and both Evan Longoria and Luke Scott providing home runs, Tampa Bay won its sixth straight game on Sunday afternoon in a sweep of the Blue Jays at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.
Archer has a 0.41 ERA over his last 22 innings and the Rays have been winners in each of his last six outings. The 24-year-old right-hander boasts a 2.76 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 58 2/3 total frames since his promotion to the major leagues on June 1.
The Rays are now just one game back of the Red Sox in the American League East standings.
They’re 20-4 since June 21.
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.