It's a question that's called up debate about baseball's "unwritten rules" for years: Should you bunt to break up a no-hitter?
Tuesday night's incident in the Minor Leagues -- when Double-A Trenton's Matt Lipka bunted for a single with Hartford just two outs away from a combined no-hitter -- brought it up again. The ninth-inning bunt hit didn't sit well with Hartford, sparking a benches-clearing argument after the final out.
It's not the first controversial bunt during a no-hit bid. One famous incident occurred on May 26, 2001, when the Padres' Ben Davis bunted for a hit in the eighth inning to break up a perfect-game bid by Curt Schilling. On June 22, 2017, speedster Jarrod Dyson bunted to break up Justin Verlander's perfect-game bid, but Verlander wasn't upset and described Dyson's play as "a perfect bunt."
Opinions seem to vary on whether bunting during a pitcher's flawless performance crosses a line or is perfectly within the competitive spirit of play. With the question making headlines again, MLB.com's beat reporters went straight to the source and polled Major Leaguers to get their opinions.
The question was simple: Is it OK to bunt to break up a no-hitter?
The verdict ...
YES, IT'S FAIR GAME: 14 votes
NO, IT'S AGAINST THE CODE: 16 votes
(Note: A lot of players fell somewhere in between an absolute pro-bunt and anti-bunt stance. In those cases, their votes are grouped with the side they were closer to, or agreed with in general.)
Here's what the players had to say on both sides.
Billy Hamilton (Royals outfielder): "If it was 1-0 or 3-0, doesn't matter. You can't win if you don't score. You can't score if you don't get on base. I'd do it."
Dominic Smith (Mets first baseman): "I mean, I'm a position player. If I'm on the other side of a no-hitter, you gotta do what you gotta do. You don't want to get no-hit. It's part of the game ... If I'm playing defense, I would be upset, though. I would feel some type of way. I would be pretty upset that it broke up the no-hitter, and if that was the only hit of the night I would definitely be disappointed. But once again, it's a part of the game. It's just how the game is."
Trevor Story (Rockies shortstop): "It's definitely score-related. It's tough to put the number on it, but three is right on the margin of it could go either way. Two or one? Obviously, the object of the game is to win. It's not to not get no-hit."
Yimi Garcia (Dodgers pitcher): "Oh, that's a tough one. It's a very difficult question because there are no rules against bunting. It's not written anywhere that you can't do it. But imagine having a no-hitter for nine innings and it gets broken up by a bunt? That would be tough to handle. I understand why the pitcher was so mad. I would be mad, too -- but what can you do?"
Trey Mancini (Orioles outfielder): "I saw it was a 3-0 game. It's still within reach. You have to get on any way you can ... You saw our game here last night. We were up by seven runs and ended up winning by one in the last inning. Baseball's a crazy game. They could have easily scored three runs in the last inning and tied the game. If his best chance to get on is bunting, you have to bunt there. He did a good job. I have no problem with that at all."
Zach Davies (Brewers pitcher): "There are a lot of unwritten rules that we're starting to undo. [A bunt is] just like a blooper, a broken-bat hit. It's a way to get on base ... I think that's a thing that guys are starting to ease out of. Maybe it still gets to [a pitcher], but then you realize, 'Is that really something worth getting mad over?' There are still some things you shouldn't do, but the small things that get to people are starting to fade out."
AGAINST THE CODE
Felix Hernandez (Mariners pitcher): "[Heck] no. No chance. You can't do that. That's disrespectful. You try to get a hit -- swing the bat."
Elvis Andrus (Rangers shortstop): "Before the fifth [inning], you are good to go. After the fifth? No. Four pitchers? That's different. One guy? It's good before the fifth. 3-0 in the ninth? No. That's baseball rules. Earn it. Hit it -- if it's the same guy [pitching]."
Shane Bieber (Indians pitcher): "I kind of see both sides. Like, you obviously don’t want to have a pitcher throw a no-hitter against you. It doesn't look good. But sometimes it's part of the game. I kind of threw a funky one last year with a rain-shortened no-hitter, and it was raining, so I was thinking, 'If these fools bunt ...' or, 'If these guys bunt right now and the ball's all slick ...' It can be kind of bush. I don’t know."
Scooter Gennett (Reds second baseman): "I think that guy was batting .176 or something like that, so, I mean, maybe that’s all he could do was bunt. But it's definitely not a good look. It's just one of those things where you've got to respect the game. You've got to respect the unwritten rules of the game. And if you don't, then usually things work themselves out -- whether it's a bench-clearing brawl or maybe bad karma."
Ryan Weber (Red Sox pitcher): "It's bush [league]. Especially with the score 3-0. One run isn't going to do anything. Try to get a base hit the old-fashioned way to break up a no-hitter ... I would say sixth inning or later [no bunting]. You've been shut down the whole game. Take your medicine. They beat you. Try to beat someone, and not by tricking them. One-run game? Obviously, the bunt is in play because that baserunner means a lot. But three runs? No. It’s not a good look."
Scott Kingery (Phillies infielder): "Personally, after the fifth inning I wouldn't try to bunt. Seventh inning and on, I don't think there's any way you should bunt. The ninth inning? Yeah, that's not good. That's definitely not good. That's enough to cause a bench clearing. I think that's enough to [tick] off a whole team."
Terrance Gore (Royals outfielder): "It was 3-0. Let the guy have his no-hitter."