Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen can hit. The 25-year-old tripled as a rookie in 2015 and belted his first career home run on August 19 against the Dodgers last year against Pedro Baez.
Manager Bryan Price decided to get Lorenzen into the game on Thursday afternoon against the Phillies, having him pinch-hit for Cody Reed in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs. Facing Adam Morgan, Lorenzen smashed a 3-1 fastball to center field for a solo home run, breaking a 4-4 tie. Lorenzen didn’t stay in to pitch, as Tony Cingrani took the mound to start the seventh.
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.