Ausmus discusses extra-inning scoring chances
Alex Avila entered Tuesday nine sacrifice bunts in 12 attempts since 2010, including five against left-handed pitching. When he stepped to the plate in the 11th inning Tuesday night, he had runners at first and second and nobody out, and two chances to get the bunt down against lefty reliever and former teammate Charlie Furbush.
On the flip side, manager Brad Ausmus had right-handed hitting catcher James McCann on his bench if he wanted to take a chance and pinch-hit for Avila. Under a different situation, Ausmus said, he probably would’ve done it. For him, however, that situation was a bunting one. It wasn’t just about advancing the runners, but preserving the catcher.
“I’d prefer to not expend both catchers, if possible,” Ausmus said after the game. “Now, if it was a situation where there was just a runner on second — if it wasn’t a bunting situation — I would’ve used McCann to hit.”
Furbush has been tough on hitters from both sides of the plate this season. Left-handed batters are 4-for-38 with 11 strikeouts against him. Right-handed hitters are 5-for-36 with six strikeouts, but two of those hits have been home runs. Both of those were in blowout games from Astros: Chris Carter in a 9-0 contest, and Marwin Gonzalez in an 11-0 game.
Avila took a first-pitch ball, then bunted back-to-back pitches foul — one a foul pop-up that Kyle Seager nearly caught. Furbush then retired him on a called third strike, starting him on his way to striking out the side and ending Detroit’s chance to win it.
“When you’re called upon to get a bunt down, you’ve gotta get it down,” Avila said. “That’s the bottom line. Furbush is tough, obviously, but I didn’t get the job done.”
Even if he had, there’s no guarantee the hitters after him would’ve gotten the runner in. A successful bunt would’ve put runners at second and third with one out for hot-hitting Nick Castellanos. The way Castellanos had been hitting, the Mariners could have opted to walk him and set up the force play at every base with left-handed hitter Marc Krauss coming up. Rajai Davis hit for Krauss.
That’s a situation Ausmus would’ve taken.
On the play an inning earlier, where Anthony Gose legged out a double and hesitated at third base when Mariners shortstop Brad Miller booted Ian Kinsler’s ground ball, Ausmus said he didn’t see for sure but thought third-base coach Dave Clark held him up. He did say it’s not like a normal two-out situation where the baserunner keeps going.
“The problem is, if he keeps running [and Miller doesn’t boot it a second time], he’s going to pick it up and throw him out at home,” Ausmus said. “And then he kicks it, so Dave’s holding him after the initial fumble of the ball. Now he kicks it, and Dave’s trying to start him up again, and he can’t. It was just a funny play that you don’t see. If he had kicked it that far initially, Dave would’ve kept him going, I’m sure. But it was an initial miss of the ground ball, and then he kicked it.”