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 started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.