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 MiLB.com’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.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.