Cain's curious bunt attempt goes awry
Opportunity with runner on second slips away in eighth inning
KANSAS CITY -- Ben Zobrist, the Royals' No. 2 hitter, led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a double. Lorenzo Cain, batting in the spot reserved for a team's best hitter, followed with a single. Both ended up scoring.
That seemed like a pretty sound strategy with the Royals down by two in Game 1 of the World Series (Game 2 tonight on FOX at 7:30 p.m. ET, game time at 8 p.m.) on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
But then Zobrist led off the eighth with another double. This time the Royals needed just one to tie. But instead of swinging away, Cain tried to bunt.
He poked at the first pitch and missed. He fouled off the second. And he swung and missed at the third. The Royals' rally fizzled, and Kansas City needed a dramatic bottom-of-the-ninth home run from Alex Gordon just to send the game into extra innings and then win it, 5-4, in the 14th.
The fact that Cain is the Royals' best hitter, coming off a career year, is only part of what made the decision curious. The other is that in his six-year big league career, he has only one successful sacrifice bunt. Which, as it turns out, came against the Orioles in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series last year.
That came under different circumstances. The Royals had already won the first three games of the best-of-seven series. And it came in the first inning with runners on first and second and nobody out.
Turns out, Royals manager Ned Yost didn't put on the bunt signal.
"That was my call," Cain said. "Just trying to do whatever I could to get the run over there to tie the game up. Unfortunately, I didn't get the job done. So I'll move on from it. Gordo had a big homer. That was huge.
"Like I said, just trying to do whatever it takes. That's kind of the mentality of this team. Didn't get the job done, so you move on from it, learn from it and hope to get the job done next time."
Explained Yost: "We give our guys the freedom to play their style, give them the freedom to bunt. A lot of times we'll put hit-and-runs on, but I don't think I put four bunt signs on all year. He just felt like our best chance of winning the ballgame was to get it down, get the runner to third and [someone would] drive him in from there."
So, Cain was asked, would he do the same thing next time the situation arises?
"Nope," he said quickly, with a laugh.