Nats’ approach to the 10th inning: Just go straight up, pretty much
How do you play the top of the 10th? That was among the big questions heading into the truncated 2020 MLB season, which features an effort to truncate extras, by starting each half-inning beginning with the 10th with a runner on second base.
Do you bunt the runner over to third, or direct the hitter to hit behind the runner, to achieve basically the same end, runner on third, one out, you can score a run with an out?
Or, do you play it like you would any other inning, basically, hey, you have a runner on second, nobody out, let’s put up a crooked number?
Davey Martinez tipped his hand Wednesday night.
“I didn’t want to bunt. We’re playing on the road. I wanted these guys to swing the bat,” Martinez said, explaining his thinking in allowing Carter Kieboom and then Andrew Stevenson to swing away.
Both eventually worked walks – Kieboom on a nine-pitch plate appearance that had him fouling off three two-strike pitches, Stevenson also working the count, finally taking the free pass on a 3-2 four-seam fastball that missed low and in.
The walks loaded the bases with no one out. Victor Robles and Trea Turner each struck out swinging, but an infield single from Adam Eaton and a bases-clearing triple off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera put up the crooked number, a four-spot, and Tanner Rainey closed out the Blue Jays in the bottom half of the 10th to preserve the 4-0 win.
To be fair, Kieboom did seem to be trying to go the other way in his AB, using an inside-out swing to effort at hitting behind the runner at second, aiming to get him to third with the ground ball.
And then Stevenson showed bunt on the second pitch of his AB, but it appeared to be just for show, just to plant the seed of thought.
Otherwise, Martinez played it straight up.
And it worked.
This time, anyway.
Story by Chris Graham