Nationals third baseman Yunel Escobar is day-to-day after leaving Friday’s game against the Brewers with a hyperextended neck. Escobar suffered the injury when he collided with a fan and the railing along the left field line while attempting to catch a foul ball off the bat of Ryan Braun in the first inning. You can watch the play here.
Anthony Rendon took over at third base while Danny Espinosa entered the game to play second. According to CSNMidAtlantic.com, Nationals manager Matt Williams is hopeful that he won’t have to miss much time.
“He ran into a fan trying to catch that ball. As he went to reach for it, he kinda leaned over with his upper body,” Wiliams explained. “The fence caught him at the waste and hyperextended his neck a little bit. So he’s a little sore. We’ll see how he is tomorrow. For now, he’s day to day.”
In a year where many on the Nationals have underachieved and/or battled injuries, Escobar has been one of the team’s best players. The 32-year-old is batting .305 with nine home runs and 40 RBI over 109 games. His .779 OPS is his best since his rookie season with the Braves in 2007.
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.