May 28, 2001
The Daily Prospectus
Bloop Bunts and Bawling
I was hoping you would do a take on the drag bunt by Ben Davis that broke up Curt Schilling's perfect game. Dave Campbell seems to feel that since the NL West is close, it was acceptable. I'm torn; I understand the point of the game is to win, but Curt Schilling, probably more than any other player, really has a sense of history of the game and to deny him a perfect game on a drag bunt seems a little cheap to me.
For those of you who've missed this story, here's a little background. Curt Schilling was dominant for the Diamondbacks against the Padres on Saturday night, taking a perfect game into the eighth inning. The Padres were completely overmatched at the plate; Rickey Henderson's comebacker to lead off the game was the only ball the Padres had hit with any authority, and nobody had worked even three balls off of Schilling. Schilling had struck out the side in the seventh inning, so he was staying strong as the game progressed.
Padres catcher Ben Davis broke up the perfect game with a bloop bunt to the second base side. According to game reports, Davis heard his share of profanities from the Diamondbacks as he took his base.
That's not the whole story. At the time, the Padres trailed 2-0, and Adam Eaton had settled down after a shaky first two innings and was pitching a good game of his own. As CM notes, the NL West is closer than David Bowie and Mick Jagger ever were, with the Padres and the D'backs sporting identical 26-22 records prior to Saturday's game. Coming up after Davis was Bubba Trammell, the tying run with good power.
There's more. Davis's development as a hitter this year has been breathtaking; he's currently at .421/.433 and has drawn a fantastic 28 walks in 134 at-bats, more than doubling his career walk rate. Of course, that didn't help him much against Schilling. Davis's at-bat in the fifth inning was especially weak, as he watched strikes one and two before being badly fooled by a breaking ball for strike three. In a night of ugly at-bats for the Padres, this was easily the ugliest.
Except for the result, Davis's bunt in the eighth wasn't much prettier. It was one of the worst bunts I've ever seen; Davis did everything wrong short of bunting foul. A lazy blooper with plenty of air under it in the general direction of an infielder, coupled with a slow-running catcher at the plate--that's not exactly a no-hitter-busting secret weapon. As it happened, Jay Bell--not known for his mobility himself these days--couldn't get to the ball in time. Had he been playing slightly more shallow, or if the Diamondbacks had been playing someone with some range at second base (like Damian Jackson, or even Tony Womack), Davis would have been toast.
Until the bunt, Schilling had been perfect--much, much more impressive than A.J. Burnett, who picked up a no-hitter against the Padres two weeks ago despite allowing ten base-runners. In a just and reasonable parallel dimension, it's Schilling who is taking home the no-hitter.
But that's not even close to the way it worked out, as a visibly frustrated Schilling gave up a walk to Trammell and allowed two hits and a well-hit sac fly in the ninth. If Ben Davis needed any more justification than he already had, Ryan Klesko was about 20 feet from tying the game in the bottom of the ninth and chasing Schilling.
After the game, Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly noted that "Ben Davis is young and has a lot to learn. That was just uncalled for." Unfortunately for Brenly and Schilling, "get the opposing pitcher the perfect game" isn't the end goal of major-league baseball teams. By upsetting Schilling's routine, Davis gave the Padres a better chance to win an important game against a divisional rival. If Brenly has a problem with that, he's the one with something to learn.
Dave Pease is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.