Squeeze pays off, contact play not so much

There was some good and bad for the Brewers on the basepaths Tuesday night.

First, the good. Bottom of the ninth inning, tie game, one out after Caleb Gindl’s infield pop-out. Logan Schafer batted next, squared to bunt on a 1-1 pitch and caught the Cubs napping, delivering a perfect suicide squeeze for a 4-3 Brewers win. It was their second walk-off win in three days.

“I saw how [Cubs reliever] Justin Grimm kind of caught it and was like, ‘Now what do I do?’” Schafer said. “Then he hesitated and threw it to first. It’s pretty surprising — with the bases loaded and one out, you’re not really thinking about a suicide squeeze. But I pride myself on all facets of the game, especially bunting, so I knew I had that ability and the coaching staff had that call and it worked out well.”

Was Brewers manager Ron Roenicke surprised that the Cubs seemed so surprised by the bunt?

“Bases loaded, it’s not ideal,” Roenicke said. “I have to think about it when we have bases loaded because it’s a flip and a force play at home. It’s so much easier than having to tag at home, so most guys won’t do it there. … But I got the perfect situation, and the count was 1-1, a tough count to pitch out in. I just liked the matchup there.”

Here’s the best part of that play. Flummoxed, Grimm took a look at Schafer and threw to first base for an out — according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the arbiter on these sorts of things — that counted, even though the game was already over. Combined with his error two batters earlier, Grimm managed to save himself an earned run, because the “out” at first base — even though the game was already over — would have been the third out of the inning.

Even though the game was already over.

You don’t see that every day.

“I was trying to get the guy out,” Grimm said. “It didn’t work out in my favor.”

Now, for the bad on the bases.

In the sixth inning, with the Brewers nursing a 1-0 lead, Norichika Aoki hit a lead off triple. He was frozen there when Jean Segura popped out, but broke home on contact when Jonathan Lucroy hit a sharp grounder to third. Aoki was out easily between third and home, and Lucroy was thrown out trying to get to second base.

The “contact play” has similarly burned the Brewers all season.

“It’s not good,” said Roenicke, asked about the team’s success rate running on contact. “We’re not running it right. The whole purpose of the contact play is, if the ball is hit right at somebody, you stop short of the catcher and you stay in a rundown, and that [batter] ends up at second base. So the disadvantage is you’re not on third, but you’re still in scoring position.

“The risk of doing it becomes much higher when you obviously can’t get to second base. It becomes a bad play, and that’s what’s happening with us. We’re not getting that runner to second base. The whole thing is designed for that, and we’re doing a really bad job of it. We’re not staying in the rundown long enough. We’re either getting too close to the catcher, and then we can’t make a decision if we go to second base a lot. So I’m not a big fan of it right now because we’re not running it properly.”

Will he run it any more this season?

“I talked to Jerry [Narron, his bench coach] after that, and if the personnel are right, we like the guy at third, that we think he can stay in a rundown, and we think the hitter has a good idea of what he’s doing, we’ll still run it,” Roenicke said. “But if we have personnel that we don’t think are going to run the play right, we won’t do it.”

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Follow me on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy

1 Comment

I follow RR’s logic here, but still like to see the Crew attempting unconventional things. This season is now essentially preparing for NEXT season, by looking at who can do what, in what situations, and developing lesson plans for next spring to improve the results.

So, keep doing things that are aggressive and exciting for the rest of this season … whether they work a high percentage of the time or not. What does it matter, except that the team gets into a mental set of trying to manufacture runs, going for extra base, stealing and bunting when it’s smart to do it, learning how to slide around tags on close plays, and the rest of it. The goal now should be to set the table and do the kitchen prep to serve up some delicious (exciting, and winning) baseball in 2014.

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