With two down in the bottom of the first inning of Wednesday night’s Dodgers-Rays game, Rays first baseman Ji-man Choi leaned over and bunted a first-pitch fastball from Dodgers starter Rich Hill up the third baseline for a single. This worked because the Dodgers had shifted their infield to the right side against Choi, who is a lefty, and so there was no one at third base to rush in and make a play on the ball.
Bunting for a cheap base hit against the shift absolutely rules. It has been argued, sensibly and often, that good lefties taking the power out of their bat to hunt a single via a play they’re not especially experienced at making is bad baseball. Still, the Bugs Bunny-esque cleverness of scanning a defense shifted to take away the right side of the field and coolly nudging the ball 15 feet up the left side of the field is amazing. If bunting against the shift can be described as thwarting the shift, it is surely the very funniest way of doing so.
But here’s the best part: Because this all took place inside Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, where absolutely no one gives a shit, it was possible to hear the exclamations of anyone down there on the field who had any particular feelings about Choi’s cheeky play. And I mean clear as a bell, echoing around in that big dreary mausoleum. And Rich Hill had some serious exclamations.
Let’s go to the video:
Mind you, this all happened in the bottom of the first inning, on Hill’s 12th pitch of the game, with the bases empty. Hill is wound a little tight! Also fair to say he’s not super fond of the shift. This is yet another reason why batters who routinely face the overshift should practice their bunting—it evidently drives certain pitchers completely insane.