MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports that the Tigers have pushed back Rick Porcello’s start to Saturday against the Rangers. Porcello was set to face the Rangers in the series opener on Thursday, but he is experiencing soreness in his right side and will get some extra rest.
Porcello has been pitching very well for the Tigers, picking up his league-leading seventh win on Saturday against the Red Sox. The 25-year-old right-hander has a 2.91 ERA and a 33/7 K/BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings.
Robbie Ray will make Thursday’s start. Ray was one candidate to be sent down to clear a spot on the roster for Anibal Sanchez, who is coming off of the disabled list, but the Tigers optioned reliever Justin Miller to Triple-A Toledo instead. Ray, acquired from the Nationals in the Doug Fister trade over the winter, posted good results in his first two starts, allowing just one run in 11 1/3 innings.
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.