The Astros lost a game on August 22nd, 2017. And a certain decision with a particular player will live with me for quite some time.
Should I let a bunt play in the Astros eighth inning yesterday bother me?
Hmm. Probably not.
But it did.
In case you were enthralled with a certain basketball trade last night instead of baseball, the Astros lost to the Washington Nationals 4-to-3. Like the score indicates, it was a close game between two teams in baseball’s upper echelon this season.
Unsurprisingly, the Astros had a plethora of chances to win. One came along in the after-mentioned eighth inning.
Here’s the scene: Josh Reddick and Yuli Gurriel collected singles before one out was recorded to start the inning. A solid beginning to the bottom-half of the inning by all accounts. Up next is Marwin Gonzalez, the Astros’ “super” utility player. And he is having a monster of a performance – 148 wRC+ in 396 PA – this season.
To recap briefly, Marwin Gonzalez has two-runners on-base with no out in the bottom of the eighth inning. The score at this point was 4-to-3. A prime situation for the Astros’ to improve upon their late-inning comebacks.
Then this bunt happened.
Welp. This situation took a rather disappointing turn.
Random fact: Gonzalez had two previous sacrifice bunts this season. That’s sort of surprising.
As one could presume, the play ended with the runners advancing to next base while Gonzalez was out at first base. So, the situation is now still-favorable with runners on second and third base with just one out.
This is still a dandy situation to be in if you are the Astros.
Next, Carlos Beltran steps into the batter box. He is then intentionally walked. The end.
The situation just improved. This game could be blown wide open with a quality hit. Victory is well-within grasp.
The next batter after Beltran, though, was catcher Max Stassi.
Alright, I feel a slight tinge of dread settling in now. While Stassi has produced a respectable 125 wRC+ in 287 plate appearances this season with the Fresno Grizzlies, he doesn’t exactly scream offensive juggernaut. Don’t get me wrong as his 96 career wRC+ in the majors is better than what I was expecting. But he’s not Brian McCann or Evan Gattis at the plate. At least not yet.
In typical Astros fashion though, Stassi promptly grounds into an inning-ending double play. And Houston’s win expectancy plummets from 54.5% when Gonzalez bunted to 15.8% following Stassi’s double play.
The dread has set in.
The Astros would then promptly roll over in the ninth inning as J.D. Davis, George Springer and Alex Bregman went down in order against Sean Doolittle. No relation to the fictional Dr. Doolittle to my knowledge.
In essence, one, like me, could argue that a bunt wasn’t the right decision in the bottom of the eighth inning. Sure, Gonzalez is only has a 100 wRC+ in August. This much lower than his current season 148 wRC+. But a 100 wRC+ means he is an average hitter this month. I would’ve taken my chances with Gonzalez swinging away than surrendering an out with a bunt.
Or maybe this doesn’t work out, either. The Astros could’ve been predestined to lose this one game no matter what?
At the same time, Astros manager A.J. Hinch knows more about baseball and these situations than I ever will. Honestly, I’m just a blogger who likes writing about baseball. I’m sure Hinch had his reasons behind the Gonzalez bunt. It just didn’t work out.
But we can still question the decision.
So, that’s the story of how a bunt became more of a bother to me than it should. And the Astros lost, so, there’s that.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs and MLB.com**