The Royals are up 2-0 in Game 4. The Power of Ned Yost’s Bunts Compels You

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Statistically speaking, most bunts don’t make tactical sense. Especially first inning bunts when you have no idea if the game is gonna be tough for scoring runs and the like. Really, on page 1 of the Sabermetric Handbook it says “Don’t Bunt in The First Inning You Moron!” At least I’m pretty sure it does.

But Ned Yost loves bunting like a fat kid loves cake and he and the Royals have been bunting to beat the band this postseason, and it has worked for them almost every time. It just worked for them again in the first inning of today’s ALCS Game 4.

Alcides Escobar reached on a single and than Nori Aoki was hit by a pitch. Runners on first and second, no outs — IN THE FIRST INNING — and Ned Yost calls on his number three hitter, Lorenzo Cain to bunt. In the first inning. Number three hitter, mind you. In the first inning, if I didn’t mention that. Cain bunts and the runners move up to second and third. In the first inning.

So of course, the next guy up, Eric Hosmer, hits into fielder’s choice to first. First baseman Steve Pearce decides to go home with it, the play is botched by Caleb Joseph and Escobar scores. As Escobar slides he kicks the ball away, allowing Aoki to come around and score too. The Royals take a 2-0 lead.

That bunt makes every baseball tactician not named Ned Yost cry blood. Yet neither of those two runs score if Ned Yost doesn’t call for that bunt. We may cry and wail about it. We may rent our garments and plead, beg and demand that Ned Yost stop bunting, especially in the first dang inning.

But Ned will look down and whisper: “No.”

Fried, Braves go to salary arbitration for 2nd straight year

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pitcher Max Fried went to salary arbitration with the Atlanta Braves for the second straight year, asking for $15 million instead of the team’s $13.5 million offer.

The 29-year-old left-hander went 14-7 for the second straight season and lowered his ERA to 2.48 from 3.04 in 2021. Fried was a first-time All-Star last season, was second to Miami’s Sandy Alcantara in Cy Young Award voting and was third in the National League in ERA behind Alcantara and Julio Urias with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Fried won a $6.85 million salary last year instead of the team’s $6.6 million proposal in arbitration. That was after he pitched six shutout innings in World Series Game 6 as the Braves won their first title since 1995.

Fried, who is eligible for free agency after the 2024 World Series, had his case heard Friday by a panel that’s expected to issue a decision Saturday.

Players have won two of three decisions so far: Pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Miami Marlins. But Seattle defeated Diego Castillo ($2.95 million).

A decision is being held for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe, whose case was argued Monday. About 20 more cases are scheduled through Feb. 17.