John Gibbons got creative with his defensive alignment on Saturday night, orchestrating an extreme infield shift against designated hitter Carlos Santana in the first inning of Game 1 of the ALCS.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson played at short, while shortstop Troy Tulowitzki played short right field to keep Santana from pulling any extra bases. Santana, a left-handed hitter with a .256/.364/.541 slash line against right-handed pitching in 2016, took the first strike he saw from Marco Estrada and drove it up the third base line to a nonexistent third baseman.
If ever there were an argument to be made in favor of bunts — those against the shift, those with no runners on, those to start a playoff series — this would be it.
The postseason has a knack for finding unlikely heroes. Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki was 1-for-23 in the postseason entering Wednesday’s Game 2 of the World Series. The Nats and Astros each plated two runs in the first inning, then went otherwise scoreless through the sixth inning. In the top of the seventh, with Justin Verlander returning to the mound, Suzuki demolished a high, 1-0 fastball just below the train tracks in left field at Minute Maid Park, breaking the 2-2 tie.
Verlander proceeded to walk Victor Robles, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to take his veteran starter out of the game. Ryan Pressly came in to attempt to keep it a one-run game.
The underdog Nationals held on to defeat the Astros 5-4 in Game 1. Another victory by the Nats in Game 2 would put the Astros — heavy favorites according to oddsmakers — in a big hole.