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Beltran explains reasoning for laying down bunt

Right fielder says he sacrificed because Craig, Holliday were due up

ST. LOUIS -- Questions about who called for a seventh-inning bunt on Monday and why that decision was made were answered by Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran on Tuesday afternoon.

Unaware of the attention around the his successful sacrifice, Beltran explained that it was his idea to lay down the bunt with runners on first and second, no outs and the Cardinals down by two runs. The bunt moved both runners up 90 feet and turned the run-scoring opportunity over to Allen Craig and Matt Holliday.

One run scored on Craig's groundout. The other runner was left stranded on third.

"I did it because coming behind is one of the best hitters we've got in that position," Beltran said. "We're looking for two runs, so I think it's an opportunity to get the guys over. It's a play where people can judge it different ways, but I was thinking about getting the bunt [down]."

Craig entered the game batting .472 with runners in scoring position this season. The sacrifice bunt was just the second executed by Beltran, who leads the Cardinals in homers (19), since 2008.

"I think I did the right thing," Beltran said. "People can put it any way they want. I did it thinking about the team. I did it thinking about the guy who was coming behind me. And I did it thinking about the situation."

The bunt became a day-after topic mostly because questions went unanswered after Monday's loss. Asked whether the bunt was called from the dugout or player-initiated, manager Mike Matheny declined comment postgame. Beltran was unavailable in the clubhouse.

Matheny said on Tuesday that his decision not to give a direct answer was driven by his desire to protect his player.

"I obviously respect, as all of us should, what a guy like Carlos has been able to do over his career," Matheny said. "I think once you start trying to take instincts away from guys, I think you're asking for trouble. I know that he's a pro and he's thinking about the team. His thought-process really was, 'OK, I've got guys at second and third and have Allen Craig and Matt Holliday coming to the plate.' I understand that."

Matheny has taken questions about his bunting tactics several times during his two seasons as manager. Last year, the Cardinals laid down 34 sacrifice bunts from non-pitchers. That total tied for third-most in the National League. The league mean in 2012 was 27.

This year, though, the bunting has been much less pronounced. Heading into the team's 112th game of the year, the Cardinals have just 12 sacrifice bunts from non-pitchers. Their pitchers have sacrificed 33 times.

"It wasn't necessarily an intention," Matheny said of the decrease in frequency. "I didn't walk in this year and say, 'We are going to bunt less.' I did say that when we bunt, we're going to be more successful at it. It's something we can improve on. But you just have to look at the whole picture of how our offense is going, who we're facing, how an individual is hitting at that time, and what does our team need right now? You have to take the whole picture.

"I think there are a lot of people who would like to see the bunt completely eliminated from the game. I'm not one of them. I also don't think you should be up there giving away outs."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.
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