When asked why he was held out of tonight’s starting lineup against the White Sox, Orioles slugger Chris Davis told reporters that it was “probably because I’ve been sucking lately.” He has to feel a little bit better about himself right now.
Davis delivered a pinch-hit walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning tonight to lead the Orioles to a dramatic 6-4 win over the White Sox. Chicago’s closer, Ronald Belisario, was protecting a one-run lead to begin the inning, but he quickly got into trouble after giving up a leadoff single to Steve Pearce and hitting Adam Jones with a pitch. He struck out Nelson Cruz for the first out, but Davis pinch-hit for Delmon Young and sent the Camden Yards faifthful home happy with this blast to right-center field:
Davis entered tonight’s action with just four hits in his last 36 at-bats. Talk about your slump-busters.
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.