Runners on second and third, 1 out. It’s a tie game in the bottom of the 8th inning. The 9-hitter is up, and the infield is pulled in.
The pitcher wants to go after this hitter because he doesn’t want to have to face the top of the order with runners in scoring position and less than two outs. As the pitcher breaks his hands, the runners break from second and third, and the hitter squares to bunt. The bunt is put down towards the first base side. The pitcher crashes, but realizes that he doesn’t have a chance to get the runner at home, so he picks up the ball, takes a shuffle, and throws the ball nice and easy to get the guy at first.
The pitcher assumed that the runner from second would stop at third, but the runner never stops. The runner hits third and just keeps on steaming towards the plate. The second baseman, covering first, catches the pitcher’s throw and tries to fire back to the plate, but it is too late. The runner from second scores, making it a 2-run squeeze.
What Went Wrong?
Believe it or not, I’ve had this play used against me successfully. Twice. In one series. It is one of the most stunning, unbelievable, and bold plays I’ve ever seen. And that’s why it works. Because at its most basic level, the play relies on one simple thing: the idea that the pitcher will throw to first because he would never in his wildest dreams believe that the runner from second would defy years of baseball logic and try to score. The play is based on the defense making a very logical assumption, and exploits that assumption to the tune of an extra run. You will probably never see this play in action. The pitcher should have played the ball with a bit more urgency, but everyone can learn something from this play. The game is evolving. Runs are at a premium and teams will try to take every inch they can get. Don’t ever assume anything. You need to be aware of the actions of every runner. The best player in this situation would not be the most skilled or the most athletic, but the one who has the ability to know when the defense can be taken by surprise. Know your situation. Be prepared for anything that happens. Slow the game down, take it one step at a time, and make the right play.