Strange doings around pitchers’ at-bats
Considering this was a game in a National League park where the designated hitter rule is not in force, there were strange doings in the second inning Tuesday night at Atlanta’s Turner Field.
Let’s start with the Yankees, who may be forgiven since they are an American League team even though this was their third straight game at an NL venue. Nick Swisher was at first base with one out and Russell Martin at bat and pitcher Hiroki Kuroda on deck.
On a 3-2 pitch from Braves righthander Tim Hudson, Swisher went in motion, a maneuver that was questionable, particularly after Martin struck out and Swish was a dead duck at second in what became an inning-ending double play. Such a play is usually designed to protect against a double play grounder from a slow-afoot batter, but just the opposite occurred. Had Swisher not been running, Kuroda would have batted that inning rather than leading off the third, which he did by grounding out. NL managers usually try to avoid having a pitcher lead off an inning, and the Yankees’ Joe Girardi is no stranger to the NL. He was the league’s Manager of the Year with the Marlins in 2006.
The Braves also behaved oddly that inning surrounding their pitcher. With runners on first and second and one out, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, the 8-hole dropped a bunt. It was a safety squeeze because Jason Heyward, the runner at third base, did not break for the plate. All that did was load the bases for, you guessed it, the pitcher. Hudson may be considered one of the better hitting pitchers in the game, but he’s not Don Newcombe or Warren Spahn. Simmons essentially did the Yankees a favor by putting Hudson in a key RBI situation. Kuroda struck him out and then got Michael Bourn to ground out to second to end the threat.
NL games are considered to have more strategy involved because the pitcher has to hit, but the strategies in these cases were pretty bad.