Nationals Park just wasn’t able to handle all of the electricity generated by right fielders Yasiel Puig and Bryce Harper facing off. Friday’s game had to be suspended following three lighting delays, and it will be picked up on Saturday.
The problem was with a bank down the left-field line. Play was initially halted for 82 minutes in the fourth, with subsequent delays in the fifth and sixth.
The Nationals were up 3-2 in the sixth when play was officially halted for the night. Both starters had already exited because of the delays. Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann allowed two runs in four innings, while Dodgers starter Mike Bolsinger gave up one run in four innings.
Yunel Escobar, not Puig nor Harper, was the offensive star of the contest to date. He had a two-run homer and a double in three at-bats. Adrian Gonzalez homered for the Dodgers.
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.