By Jeff Louderback
The sacrifice bunt should be used sparingly, and only when a pitcher is batting (which obviously only happens in the American League during interleague games) or when a weak hitter is at the plate in a situation where your team is trailing by a run with a runner at first and/or second and there are no outs.
That is my firm opinion. Many AL enthusiasts will embrace my belief while people who favor a National League style of baseball will scoff.
The debate about sacrifice bunts surfaced yet again when Jarrod Saltalamacchia stepped to the plate with no outs, runners on first and second and the Red Sox trailing the Detroit Tigers, 2-0, in the bottom of the seventh inning on Monday.
Saltalamacchia, who has 11 home runs and 35 doubles this season, did not have a sacrifice bunt to his credit when he dropped a bunt against Tigers right-hander Doug Fister. He still does not have a sacrifice bunt this season. Saltalamacchia’s bunt landed in front of the plate, allowing catcher Alex Avila to pounce on the ball and throw a strike to third base, forcing out Daniel Nava, who doubled to open the inning.
Red Sox manager John Farrell told the media after the game that he put on the bunt attempt because the Red Sox had grounded into three double plays, including one by Saltalamacchia, and Saltalamacchia was in a 0-for-12 funk.
Yet Saltalamacchia was also 5-for-10 with two doubles and a home run off Fister in his career.
After Saltalamacchia’s unsuccessful sacrifice bunt attempt left the Red Sox with runners at first and second, Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks each grounded out to end the threat. The Tigers plated another run in the top of the eighth, and though the Red Sox had Dustin Pedroia on third in the eighth and Nava on second in the ninth, they were unable to score in what finished as the 11th time they were shut out this season.
Farrell is an instrumental reason why the Red Sox are 82-57 and own the best record in the AL and a 5.5-game lead over second place Tampa Bay. He is a Major League manager, and over the course of a 162-game season every big league manager makes decisions that are puzzling, especially when those decisions do not produce the intended results.
Farrell will hopefully leave sacrifice bunts to players who are comfortable with executing them, and not a power-hitting catcher who could have given the Red Sox a lead with one swing of the bat.