KANSAS CITY, Mo.: Runners on first and second, nobody out. What do you do?
Chris Perez hopes you try to advance the runners with a sacrifice bunt. So do most fans, who seem to regard the bunt as the greatest thing since dollar dogs.
But if the Indians’ closer likes the idea of opposing hitters laying one down, how effective is a bunt in that situation?
“The easiest way for me to get out of that kind of jam is for them to bunt,” Perez said Monday. “There’s already a guy in scoring position, and they tie the game [with one run], that’s a loss to me.”
Perez found himself in a precarious position April 21 in Houston, where the Tribe was leading 5-4, and the Astros were coming up for the ninth. Rick Ankiel led off with a double, and Perez hit Dominguez with a pitch. The next batter, Gonzalez, bunted the runners to second and third, much to the relief of Perez.
“I saw he was bunting, so I threw it right down the middle,” Perez said. “If he doesn’t bunt, who knows what might happen? The hitter has all the advantages with runners on first and second and nobody out. When the guy bunted, he just made a third of the inning easier for me.”
Giving up an out in exchange for having two runners in scoring position was fine with Perez.
“If I don’t throw it down the middle, I might miss and it’s 1-and-0,” he said. “Then they might take the bunt off.”
With one out, the pitcher can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“As a pitcher, for sure I like that,” Perez said. “It gave me more options. I had the choice of which of the next two hitters to pitch to [because first base was open].”
The Astros did not tie the game, even with two runners in scoring position. Perez retired the next two batters on a strike out and ground out to earn the save.
Like many managers, Terry Francona will commit to the play “depending on the situation.”
“If you need one run, that might be the best way to play for it,” he said. “If you have a guy like Drew Stubbs [bunting], for example, he’s so fast the odds probably are in your favor [that he will beat it out].”
But it was clear that Francona isn’t thrilled with the idea of putting on the play early in games.
“When you have a chance to play for more than one run – especially against a good pitcher – go ahead and take it [the chance],” he said. “If you play for one run, that’s what you usually get.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.