A Slo-Mo Look at an Ordinary Unearned Run


BUGS SAYS: “No games, innings, or plays are ever exactly the same. – Remember that top of the 8th the Royals had against our Astros in Game 4 of The 2015 ALDS?”

The following play has nothing to do with Game 4 of the 2015 ALDS played at Minute Maid Park between the Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals. I just happen to get a little sentimental this time of the year over the ordinary stuff we begin to take for granted that we will be seeing everyday. It’s only when the doors of a season begin to close that we come to the realization that we will now have to get by with replays of the mind until spring and real baseball make their welcome return. It also makes me realize today that, when Rogers Hornsby once said that he spent the winters staring out the window and waiting for spring, that he probably was spending much of  that “staring” time harboring thoughts like the following:

Images of an Exciting and Fairly Rare Play …

The runner on first got there with a 9th inning, visiting team, first-hitter-up opposite field dink single to right that landed like a skipping duck on the pond of waving too-tall grass. The score at the time was 2-2.

The next man up, a lefty, took a couple of low and outside fastballs as the speedy runner at first danced away and back to the bag like a feline on catnip – and one with little fear of overweight right-handed starting strikeout pitchers who rarely threw to first in these instances. An attempted theft of second was expected on the next pitch by the anxious, booing crowd of 30,000.

As the next pitch was being loaded for launch and the rules governing “balk” had kicked into place, the runner on first took off like a sprinter in a 100 meters track and field event.

Another low and outside speed ball was the next offering. It could have continued into the dirt for either ball three or a passed ball, but a bunt-poking bat intercepted its down and heading out path on a mobile trajectory that suddenly sent it hopping much more slowly on a bouncing trek down the third base line.

The runner was already rounding second as the third baseman raced in to bare-hand the dying movement of the no longer bouncing bunt no more than ten feet from home. The runner and the shortstop, who did have the benefit of a head start, now shared a mercurial race to the uncovered presence of third base – as the second baseman hustled to cover his own namesake bag – and the pitcher arched over to helplessly watch the play on the bunt and the left-handed first base guy raced to his bag in anticipation of a throw on the bunt attempt. The too thick-legged bunting, now running, batter hauled ass to first. The wise old catcher stayed home.

Frantic could have been the name for this moment.

The third base man wheeled on his right foot as he quickly grabbed the now inert ball and flung it back across his falling-to-the-right body on a new, more aerodynamic course in the general direction of first base. The not so speedy runner there was still quite “gettable,”  but the thrown ball had taken a slicing course – and was moving in the general direction of the stands – to a spot that only an initial base man named “Plastic Man” could have converted into a routine force out at first.

The runner now at third and his coach see the flight of the throw and use less than a nanosecond on betting that the way home is now clear. The speedster makes the turn and heads for the plate and the lonely catcher who awaits him as probably little more than a close up witness to the last thing the homies want to see – a man scoring from first on a bunt to third. – The pitcher finally notes the low probability of what he sees little chance for happening – and he jogs behind the catcher for an improbable play at the plate on the front-runner.

To the surprise of no one, the slicing bunt throw bounces off the first base stands rail and bounds on down the right field line. The right fielder makes a perfunctory charge in it its direction, but it is of no use. The runner from first has waltzed home to give the visitors a 3-2 lead. The wide-legged bunter has reached first safely. The visitors will continue batting with a runner on first, no outs, and a one-run lead in the top of the sixth.

“E-5” is the official scorer’s ruling on the play. His rationale? A good 5-3 out play throw was possible and would have gotten the bunting runner – and prevented the run from scoring.

Oh well, starting tonight, the 2015 season still has the World Series to offer  – and then we will only be able to see plays like the one just described in our memories, our imaginations, and our computer-simulated baseball hobby games.

Thanks for your indulgence today, everybody. I’m just getting the hot stove ready for the off-season in the most basic of ways – by recreating one of thousands in the scenarios that have filled our minds as actual plays we’ve seen many times over in the course of our rich lifetimes as baseball fans.

Question of the Day: Can your mind come out to play? If so, we’ll be here. In the sandlot of the mind. Just waiting for you to show up.




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