Benches clear after minor leaguer bunts to break up no-hit bid in ninth

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The Hartford Yard Goats, the Double-A affiliate of the Rockies, nearly tossed a combined no-hitter against the Trenton Thunder, the Double-A Affiliate of the Yankees. Rico Garcia got the start, tossing six terrific innings, yielding no hits and no walks with 11 strikeouts. The only two base runners he allowed reached via fielding error.

Jordan Foley took over in the seventh, striking out two in a perfect inning of work. Logan Cozart worked the eighth, keeping the no-hitter alive with one strike out in a perfect frame. Closer Ben Bowden took over in the ninth, trying to secure the 3-0 victory and the no-hitter. Bowden struck out Jorge Saez to open the frame, bringing up Matt Lipka, who decided to lay down a bunt. He was successful, reaching base just ahead of Bowden’s shovel pass to first baseman Tyler Nevin.

Bowden struck out Hoy Jun Park and got Rashad Crawford to ground out to end the game. The two sides exchanged words after the game, which caused both teams’ benches to empty.

After the game, Garcia said, via’s Chris Bumbaca, “It is what it is. [Lipka] was doing what he had to do. And we were really passionate about getting the no-hitter. It is what it is. I can’t really speak for what he was trying to do or what he was trying to accomplish. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get the no-hitter. Emotions were high after.”

It has long been one of baseball’s unwritten rules that a hitter should not bunt to break up a no-hit bid. Most hitters follow this unwritten rule, but it was famously broken on May 26, 2001 when Padres catcher Ben Davis bunted to break up Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling’s no-hit bid in the eighth inning.

It’s silly when you think about it. One side is imposing a limitation on the other team, which actually diminishes the achievement. A no-hitter is more special if the opposition had the full range of options to choose from and were shut down anyway. At any rate, changing rules mid-game for personal enrichment is something children do.

Furthermore, it was still a 3-0 game. The Thunder, still well within striking distance of a comeback, were concerned about winning the game. If reaching base via a bunt helps move the needle towards a comeback, then it’s perfectly cromulent strategy.

Further still, players on the Thunder are not just playing to win, they’re playing to impress. Catcher Crash Davis from the movie Bull Durham to explained, “You know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at-bats is 50 points, okay? There’s six months in a season, that’s about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week — just one — a gork, a ground ball — you get a ground ball with eyes — you get a dying quail. Just one more dying quail a week and you’re in Yankee Stadium.”

Lipka has been in the minor leagues for a decade. Making it to the major leagues, even for just a cup of coffee, would be huge for him. Beyond realizing a lifelong dream, Lipka would get better pay (prorated) and benefits, including health insurance. Will that bunt likely be the deciding factor for the Yankees? Probably not. But there’s a non-zero chance it could, which means Lipka takes that bunt hit every day of the week and twice on Sunday — no-hit bid be damned.

Like all of baseball’s other unwritten rules, this one disallowing bunts during a no-hit bid is a bad unwritten rule for a variety of reasons. If the Yard Goats didn’t want a bunt to break up their no-hit bid, they should have better defended against it.

MLB free agent watch: Ohtani leads possible 2023-24 class

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CHICAGO – The number will follow Shohei Ohtani until it is over. No, not Ohtani’s home runs or strikeouts or any of his magnificent numbers from the field. Nothing like that.

It’s all about how much. As in how much will his next contract be worth.

Ohtani is among several players going into their final seasons before they are eligible for free agency. There is still time for signatures and press conferences before opening day, but history shows a new contract becomes less likely once the real games begin.

There is no real precedent for placing a value on Ohtani’s remarkable skills, especially after baseball’s epic offseason spending spree. And that doesn’t factor in the potential business opportunities that go along with the majors’ only truly global star.

Ohtani hit .273 with 34 homers and 95 RBIs last season in his fifth year with the Los Angeles Angels. The 2021 AL MVP also went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA in 28 starts on the mound.

He prepared for this season by leading Japan to the World Baseball Classic championship, striking out fellow Angels star Mike Trout for the final out in a 3-2 victory over the United States in the final.

Ohtani, who turns 29 in July, could set multiple records with his next contract, likely in the neighborhood of a $45 million average annual value and quite possibly reaching $500 million in total.

If the Angels drop out of contention in the rough-and-tumble AL West, Ohtani likely becomes the top name on the trade market this summer. If the Angels are in the mix for the playoffs, the pressure builds on the team to get something done before possibly losing Ohtani in free agency for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick.

So yeah, definitely high stakes with Ohtani and the Angels.

Here is a closer look at five more players eligible for free agency after this season:


Nola, who turns 30 in June, went 11-13 with a 3.25 ERA in 32 starts for Philadelphia last year. He also had a career-best 235 strikeouts in 205 innings for the NL champions.

Nola was selected by the Phillies with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft. There were extension talks during spring training, but it didn’t work out.

“We are very open-minded to trying to sign him at the end of the season,” President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said. “We’re hopeful that he’ll remain a Phillie for a long time.”


Chapman hit 36 homers and drove in 91 runs for Oakland in 2019. He hasn’t been able to duplicate that production, but the three-time Gold Glover finished with 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 155 games last year in his first season with Toronto.

Chapman turns 30 on April 28. Long one of the game’s top fielding third basemen, he is represented by Scott Boras, who generally takes his clients to free agency.


Hernández was acquired in a November trade with Toronto. He hit .267 with 25 homers and 77 RBIs in his final year with the Blue Jays. He was terrific in 2021, batting .296 with 32 homers, 116 RBIs and a .870 OPS.

The change of scenery could help the 30-year-old Hernández set himself up for a big payday. He is a .357 hitter with three homers and seven RBIs in 16 games at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park.


The switch-hitting Happ is coming off perhaps his best big league season, setting career highs with a .271 batting average, 72 RBIs and 42 doubles in 158 games. He also won his first Gold Glove and made the NL All-Star team for the first time.

Chicago had struggled to re-sign its own players in recent years, but it agreed to a $35 million, three-year contract with infielder Nico Hoerner on Monday. The 28-year-old Happ, a first-round pick in the 2015 amateur draft, is on the executive subcommittee for the players’ union.


Urías, who turns 27 in August, likely will have plenty of suitors if he reaches free agency. He went 17-7 with an NL-low 2.16 ERA in 31 starts for the NL West champions in 2022, finishing third in NL Cy Young Award balloting. That’s after he went 20-3 with a 2.96 ERA in the previous season.

Urías also is a Boras client, but the Dodgers have one of the majors’ biggest payrolls. Los Angeles also could make a run at Ohtani, which could factor into its discussions with Urías’ camp.