The Situation: Nobody on, two outs. The three-hitter is up. The game is tied in the 7th inning.
The Play: The three-hitter fouls off a great pitch to hit to make the count 0-2. He’s disappointed because he knows he could have pounded that pitch into the gap. The pitcher throws a curveball that breaks down and away, and the hitter is fooled. He reaches out and pokes a bloop into shallow left-center field. He throws his bat down and starts running towards first at about 75% speed, watching the ball to see if it lands for a single. The center fielder is crashing hard but pulls up at the last second and plays the ball on a hop. The hitter takes an easy turn off first as he watches the center fielder reach down to pick up the ball. The center fielder grabs at it, but it falls out of his glove and rolls a few feet away. The hitter freezes for a second wondering if he should try to advance, then realizes he doesn’t have any shot of making it. He retreats back to first as the throw goes in to second base.
The Outcome: The next batter also singles. With two outs and men on first and second, the pitcher strikes out the next hitter to end the inning and keep the game tied.
What Went Wrong?
There is never any excuse for not playing this game hard. The three-hitter made a mistake that every single one of us has made, or will make, at some point in our careers. He let the game get away from him for just a moment and didn’t hustle, and it cost his team a run.
This hitter’s first mistake was a common one. The second he put the ball in play, he should have been going 100% towards first base. There will always be time later, in the dugout, in the clubhouse, or at home, to pout about at-bats. Pouting is never done on the field. Give every hit a hard 90. You never know what it will get you.
The second mistake was that the hitter did not sniff a double out of the box. This is obviously tied to his initial lack of hustle but there’s a lot more to it. The second that a hitter sees that his hit is going to get down, he should be focused on giving a hard turn that pressures the defense. A base runner rounding first should only slam on the brakes when the outfielder’s arm is coming forward to throw the ball into the infield. This will let a runner be prepared to take second on a bobble, just like the one that occurred here.
In this situation, the hitter should have given a hard 90 to first, taken a hard turn, recognized the bobble, and taken second base. He could have taken an off-balance, 0-2 poke, and turned it into a double, giving his team a runner in scoring position with 2 outs. The next hit would have given his team the lead. Instead, he let his emotions make him lazy. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Always be in control. Know the situation, know your job, know the right way to play. Think the game.