Among a certain portion of baseball fandom, the bunt is met with reflexive disdain. And so, Kevin Frandsen’s choice Tuesday night in the eighth inning left some puzzled. With men on first and second and two outs, with the score tied at 3, he dropped a bunt single to the left side of the infield.
On the surface, it served little purpose – the bunt had no chance to score a run. But for multiple reasons, the bunt was an example of smart decision-making, quick thinking and clinical execution. It tipped every percentage in the Nationals’ favor. It was an interesting move, and worthy of a little closer examination.
Frandsen’s decision started with his match-up. Chad Qualls had just intentionally walked Nate McLouth to face him. Frandsen had only faced Qualls twice, but Qualls’s darting sinker had made an impression. “I’m oh for whatever and never hit a barrel against Qualls,” Frandsen said.
Frandsen looked to the left side and saw the Astros’ third baseman playing “in the outfield.” He knew if he got a bunt down, it would be an automatic hit that would send Jose Lobaton to the plate with the bases loaded.
“Next man up, and Lobie’s had two great at-bats during the day,” Frandsen said. “I don’t really ever have to defend that. I’m not one to go up there and try to do whatever. Next man up. That was the whole situation. I’ll do that 100 times out of 100.”
The benefits were numerous. Adam LaRoche, the go-ahead run, could score on a passed ball, a wild pitch, a walk or an infield hit. Qualls had to face a left-handed hitter in Lobaton. Since a walk or passed ball would give the Nationals the lead, Qualls would need to pitch Lobaton with extra care.
It turned out that Qualls won the crucial match-up. He threw Lobaton a vicious, 2-2 sinker that started at his shoulder and swung back over the inside corner. Frandsen’s play ultimately didn’t lead to a run, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t increase the Nationals’ odds.