First-inning sacrifice? Not a bad thought, but not the best

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cleveland — It’s a play that is largely frowned upon in this analytical age of baseball.

Tigers Alex Presley executed a sacrifice bunt, moving Ian Kinsler to third base with just one out on Tuesday night. But he did it in the first inning against Indians ace Corey Kluber.

“Generally speaking, you don’t bunt for one run against Kluber,” manager Brad Ausmus said. 

Francisco Lindor of the Indians celebrates as he rounds the bases on a solo home run during the first inning.

Presley bunted on his own, it was not ordered from the bench. But it’s easy to understand Presley’s thinking.

“You’re trying to score first,” Kinsler said. “We just couldn’t get it done.”

The Indians had won 19 straight games and had trailed in just four innings throughout the streak. To get an early lead, especially against Kluber, would seemingly be imperative.

As it turned out, Kluber struck out Miguel Cabrera (called third strike on a pitch outside the zone) and Nick Castellanos.

The Tigers never seriously threatened Kluber again, never got another runner to third base, and lost 2-0. It was the 12th time the Tigers have been shutout this season.

Ausmus talked to Presley about the bunt during the game.

“The thing is, Presley was 10 for 20 off Kluber coming into the game,” Ausmus said. “I know what his thought process was – get the guy to third and try to get a run on the board. But I told Pres, ‘You’re one of the guys who’s hit Kluber. I’d rather you take a shot and swing the bat.’

“Even if he just hits the ball to the right side, he gets the guy over anyway. I understand what he was trying to do, I just would’ve preferred he swung the bat.”

First inning or not, it turned out to be the pivotal moment in the game. Francisco Lindor hit a lead-off home run for the Indians in the bottom of the first and the Indians never trailed again.

“You never really expect a first-inning home run like Lindor hit, or a first-inning missed chance like we had, to decide the game,” Kinsler said. “But when you have a guy who throws the ball as well as Corey, it did tonight. That's the story.”

Hot stick

There are no complaints about the way Presley continues to swing the bat, though.

He got two more hits Wednesday and is hitting .317 on the season.

“He’s played extremely well,” Ausmus said. “If he hits like that consistently, he’s an everyday outfielder. That’s the best way to put it.”

Presley has hit safely in six straight and in 13 of 14 games. He is hitting .400 (16 for 40) in September.

Around the horn

Nick Castellanos extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He is hitting .432 (16-for-37) in that span with five doubles and 10 RBIs. The 10-game hit streak is tied with Yankees Chase Headley for the longest in the American League.

Twitter: @cmccosky