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
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.