You will never get me to change my mind on this. Calling a bunt in the ninth inning when your team is trailing is loser baseball.
Friday night’s quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic was a joy for Cubs fans. Marcus Stroman started for Puerto Rico and although things got shaky near the end of his outing, the righty still only allowed two runs in 4.1 innings. Hell, you even saw Javier Báez go deep off of Julio Urias after current Cubs outfielder Nelson Velázquez singled earlier in the first inning.
But it was an even better night if you’re a Cubs fan and were rooting for Mexico against Puerto Rico.
Javier Assad came into pitch after Urias and the Cubs starting pitcher was electric. Mexico was down 4-1 when Assad entered the game in the fifth inning and the right-hander shut down Puerto Rico’s offense. Assad was coming off a great outing against the United States, pitching three scoreless innings against them.
On Friday night, Assad pitched 2.2 scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and one walk, while striking out four and keeping Mexico in the game. Assad struck out three of the last four batters he faced before he was taken out with two outs in the seventh inning.
The first strikeout from Assad was a thing of beauty. 96mph on the outside corner.
The breaking stuff was nasty, too.
And then 96mph again to end the sixth.
By the way, combined with his spring training stats, here’s what Assad has done for the Cubs and Mexico leading up to Opening Day: 9.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8 K, 2 BB.
Assad helped Mexico stay within two of Puerto Rico and then in the seventh inning, Puerto Rico’s manager Yadier Molina turned to Cincinnati Reds reliever and the brother of Edwin Diaz, Alexis Diaz. That move was immediately questioned and it backfired for Molina.
Diaz gave up a hit and walked two, leaving the game with the bases loaded without recording an out. Mexico took advantage, tied the game and then took a 5-4 lead.
Mexico held on to the 5-4 lead heading into the ninth inning, when Puerto Rico began the frame with a leadoff single.
And then Yadier Molina called for a bunt. The bunt was popped up and caught by the pitcher. After another pop out in the infield, Francisco Lindor singled with two outs to keep it alive for Puerto Rico.
But the rally fell short and Mexico closed it out to advance to the semifinals against Japan.
If it was so important to have a runner at second base with Lindor up, then why wasn’t there a bunt called when Martin Maldonado was up with a runner at first and one out? And you could say, well Mexico would have just walked Lindor, Puerto Rico’s best hitter, with first base open. Well, yeah! Duh! So, bunting wouldn’t have made any difference.
By the way, Maldonado is a career .209 hitter.
I hope one day Yadier Molina makes it back to the Cardinals dugout and becomes their manager. I’d love for him to keep giving away free outs when his team is losing.