The longer you are around baseball, the more opportunities you have to say to yourself after a play, "I've never seen that before." Wednesday night in Bowie offered one of those moments in the Baysox unique 8-7 win over the Altoona Curve, featuring a 3-run bunt.
Baysox starting pitcher Sean Gleason walked off the mound after finishing the top of the fifth inning frustrated. He had given up three runs and did not get much help from his own command or defense behind him, which committed two errors in the inning. Bowie trailed 6-2.
Altoona's starter, Kyle Bloom, had been in charge, despite giving up three walks. He had only given up one hit in four innings heading into the bottom of the fifth, and the Baysox were not hitting the ball particularly hard.
Catcher Guillermo Rodriguez put the early innings behind him, leading off with a double to deep left-center field. He was able to move up to third base when Robert Valido took ball four, a wild pitch over everyone to the backstop. The Baysox had runners at first and third for leadoff hitter Jonathan Tucker. Tucker reached out and smacked a single to left field to score Rodriguez and the Baysox had runners at first and second with nobody out. 6-3, Altoona.
Miguel Abreu, the Baysox second baseman was the tying run at the plate, hitting in front of a raking Brandon Snyder.
"The first thing, when I got to the plate, I saw [Brandon] Snyder [on deck] and think, 'I'm going to try to bunt,'" Abreu said.
Bowie manager Brad Komminsk did not put on a bunt sign and shortstop Robert Valido explained that at this point in the game, it would be more conventional to have the tying run at the plate swinging away. But, Abreu knew he had the Eastern League RBI leader, coming into Wednesday’s games, and batting leader right behind him.
Abreu put a bunt down the first base line, it trickled slowly, about half way up, teasing Altoona's Bloom, first baseman Jaime Romak, and catcher Steve Lerud. The trio followed the ball up the first base line, watching it, hoping it would skip to the right, foul. It would not comply.
Valido saw the development and quickly realized, with the catcher following Abreu’s bunt up the line, nobody was home.
"Brad [Komminsk] actually told me 'No no no,' and I was like, 'I can beat these guys,' and I was gone," Valido explained. 6-4, Altoona.
While Valido was sneaking home, Tucker was rounding second and already at third, with Abreu not too far behind, watching closely from second.
Lerud tried to toss the ball to Bloom to get Valido at home, but the throw was off target and ended up against the backstop. Bloom jogged over, with his back to home, and Jonathan Tucker took advantage of Bloom's first miscue while Abreu was heading towards third. Tucker slid in to home ahead of an errant throw from Bloom, his second miscue. 6-5, Altoona.
Bloom's throw ended up out near where a second baseman would normally be positioned and resembled a soft groundball to second more than a bad throw. Abreu scored without a throw. 6-6,
"When I scored, I said, 'Oh my God, that never happens,'" Abreu said. "I never see that in baseball."
The Baysox had scored three runs, including their batter, without the ball leaving the infield.
"It was funny, were were saying 'inside the infield home run,'" Valido, who also hit a key RBI triple the following inning, said. "Everybody was pretty excited, pumped, some guys were pretty dumbfounded. They were like, 'What's going on here?'"
Bowie went on to get four more hits and score two more runs to defeat Altoona, improving to 19-18 and extending their winning streak to five games.
"Kind of a bizarre play for baseball, but that’s what your teams thrive off of," Gleason said. "That one break just jumpstarted us and off we went."
Luck is needed to extend winning streaks, but in baseball, teams can create their own luck with hustle and heads-up play. Bowie did that Wednesday evening.
"Our base runners ran the bases good, had their heads up and the other team just didn't execute," Komminsk said.
After all the craziness was sorted out, Abreu had an RBI on a bunt single and Tucker was ruled to have moved from first to third on that single by the official scorer. The first error was a throwing error on Lerud, allowing Tucker to score, and the second error was on Bloom, allowing Abreu to score. Oh well, no home run. It is the type of play that makes a manager proud of his team’s hustle.
While Komminsk will take the win and hustle everyday, he said it was not something he will rely on in the future.
"Hopefully I’ll never see it again," Komminsk said.
As if the three-run bunt was not enough, the game featured a total of 15 runs on 18 hits, five errors, an ejection (Lerud), and a pair of balks (one for each team). What will happen tomorrow?
With all the offense going around, Brandon Snyder was hitless in four at-bats, snapping an 8-game hitting streak. Snyder also failed to drive in a run for the first time in five games. While he cooled off for the night, Snyder still leads the Eastern League in batting average (.362), slugging (.623), and OPS (1.029).