It was a play that screamed for second guessing and almost led to a triple play. It did lead to a double play, which obviously, Girardi was trying to avoid. Here is how it unfolded: Ichiro Suzuki led off the inning against Mike Adams, the Rangers’ setup guy. Adams was in the game to keep it close and give the Rangers a chance to win it in the ninth. Ichiro pounded an Adams pitch into the dirt for a high chop that Adrian Beltre put in his pocket. It was the second time in a row that Ichiro had beat out an infield single. That brought up Jayson Nix.
It needs to be mentioned here that Mike Adams is one of the easiest pitchers in baseball to steal a base against. The ESPN broadcast of the game pointed it out and the numbers back it up. For his career, 38 base steal attempts have been successful against Adams in 43 attempts. That is bad enough, but it gets even worse as 26 of the last 27 attempts to steal against him have been successful.
Ichiro was brought to the Yankees in part because of the speed element. Is not that what we were told? And yet the first time Ichiro singled, he was erased on a double play begun by this same Jayson Nix. Everybody on the planet expected Ichiro to try to steal. But he stood rooted on first and fortunately, Nix hit another single to put men on first and second with no out. That brought up Derek Jeter.
The first point here is that Jeter is on a hot streak. He is batting nearly .380 in his last dozen games. Secondly, he has owned the Rangers this season with an on-base average of over. 450. But the point also has to be made that Mike Adams is a ground ball pitcher and Derek Jeter is currently third in the league in GIDP. Got it.
But you also have Ichiro on second with a still excellent stolen base percentage with a pitcher on the mound where base stealers have more fun than splashing in a wading pool. Jayson Nix is not a great base steal guy, but he is the trail runner and can basically coast into second following Ichiro. Such a move requires little risk and huge rewards. Jeter would have been all set up with two ducks on the pond and no chance to be doubled up.
But as Jeter stared at the third base coach during his at bat, a sinking feeling started to settle into the gut. And sure enough, on the first pitch, Jeter squared to bunt. The lovely wife on the couch started to yell, “Don’t bunt, Jeter!” But sure enough, again he tried. Mercifully, he fouled it off. He did not foul the third attempt off (he pulled the bat back for a ball on the first attempt). With almost no wiggle room with two fielders charging and the Rangers employing the wheel play, Jeter popped the bunt up. It looked like Adams was going to catch it. Both runners froze. Adams smartly let it drop and threw Jeter out at first. The trouble was, the two base runners were in dead space. Since it was now a force play, the runners were dead ducks. Nix was caught in a rundown between first and second. Ichiro wisely hugged second so he would not be out too.
It was an infuriating play. And extra padded run would have been nice there because Josh Hamilton was leading off the ninth and had already hit two solo homers. Even if Jeter had rapped into a double play, there would be two outs and a man on third. This play resulted in two outs and a man on second. Ichiro was brought in for speed and a bunt was deemed a better play than a steal. Adams can’t stop potential base steals and yet bunting seemed like the better play.
Now it is possible that Jeter did his own thing there and it was not a called bunt. That seems unlikely since he peered intently at the third base coach during the entire at bat. The call, in this case, had to come from the dugout. It was an epic strategy fail.
The bottom line is that the Yankees won the game. The other bottom line is that those comments the last few days about the job Girardi is doing are not wrong. You cannot argue with the success. But holy Hannah, rip that stupid bunt page out of Girardi’s notebook and burn it in a public event with the world watching as witnesses. That bunt was just a train wreck of a decision and it is fortunate the play did not derail the game.