The 2019 season saw more home runs hit than ever before. One side effect of all that power was the fewest bunts in baseball history. Now, sure, you may think home runs are more exciting than bunts -- and most of the time you’d be right. Home runs go really far! People cheer like mad! Players can toss their bat and race around the bases. Compare that to the humble bunt that, when done successfully, is rolled quietly along the infield grass before coming to a dead stop, and it’s no contest.
But some of baseball’s most significant moments still come from the bunt. It’s the tool in the back of your toolbox that you forget, and then turn to when you need it most. So, today, let’s ignore the flash and look at 10 of the best bunts from postseason history.
1) Ramon Hernandez goes anti-Moneyball
Game 1, 2003 American League Division Series
High on-base percentages, lots of power and no bunts -- those are the three things that defined the early 2000s' version of the A's, Moneyball 1.0. So, of course the best October bunt comes from one of Billy Beane’s teams.
In the bottom of the 12th inning in Game 1 of the A’s-Red Sox ALDS in 2003, the teams were knotted at 4. With two outs and the bases loaded, Hernandez -- a catcher with zero bunt hits that season -- stepped to the plate. He wasn’t going to lay down a bunt in that must-win situation? Right? Right? Wrong.
2) Joey Cora starts it off
Game 5, 1995 ALDS
When you think of the amazing 1995 Mariners’ ALDS victory against the Yankees, you likely think of Edgar Martinez blasting a ball down the left-field line, Ken Griffey Jr. racing around third and Dave Niehaus shouting his call.
But none of that may have happened without Joey Cora’s leadoff bunt. On the first pitch of the inning, Cora dropped it down, and with some slick moves, managed to avoid the tag.
Two batters later, the Mariners had the biggest win in team history.
3) J.C. Martin and the Miracle Mets
Game 3, 1969 World Series
In his lone World Series plate appearance, veteran catcher J.C. Martin got to play a big part in the Miracle Mets’ story thanks to a bunt -- one which he didn’t want to lay down. He recently told Newsday, “Good God, who wants to bunt?”
Martin got the call with no outs and runners on first and second and the score tied 1-1 in the 10th inning of Game 4. As he ran to first, the throw hit him on the wrist and bounced away, allowing the winning run to score. Fifty years later, and Orioles players still want an interference call that’s never going to come.
4) Carlos Guillen walks it off
Game 3, 2000 ALDS
Mariners history is filled with some of the biggest hitters in the history of the game: A-Rod. Griffey. Edgar. But, as we've already seen, some of their biggest hits have been bunts.
Enter Guillen. In Game 3 of the 2000 ALDS, he stepped to the plate with the White Sox and Mariners tied at 1 in the bottom of the ninth. With one of the most powerful drag bunts you’ll ever see, Guillen dragged it straight through the infield to drive in the series-winning run.
5) Manny Machado lays one down
Game 7, 2018 National League Championship Series
Machado is more often associated with diving stops, massive home runs, and maybe even some … interesting fashion choices. But in the Game 7 of the 2018 NLCS, Machado surprised everyone with a bunt in the second inning and with a 3-2 count.
Cody Bellinger then drove Machado home with a two-run home run to give the Dodgers a lead they would not give up en route to a second straight NL pennant.
6) Gregor Blanco beats the Cardinals
Game 3, 2014 NLCS
Sure, people remember Travis Ishikawa’s home run to seal the series, but no one wants to remember Blanco’s little dribbler from Game 3 of the 2014 NLCS?
Knotted at 4 in the bottom of the 10th, the Giants had two on and one out when Blanco laid a bunt back to Cardinals lefty reliever Randy Choate, who loaded up for the throw … and tossed it down the right-field line.
7) Bunts give the Reds a title
Game 4, 1990 World Series
While the Reds swept the A’s in four games in the 1990 World Series, it was with the awesome, fearsome power of the bunt that helped them close it out.
In Game 4, the Reds were trailing, 1-0, in the eighth inning. So, when Barry Larkin led off the eighth inning with a single, it was time to call in the bunt brigade.
Herm Winningham laid down a bunt single right in front of the catcher. Paul O’Neill followed and got on base thanks to an error and some fortunate umpiring. A groundout and flyout later, and the Reds had a 2-1 lead en route to a World Series crown.
8) Omar Vizquel misses the bunt
Game 3, 1997 ALCS
A missed bunt on this list? Sure, because it worked out just like it was successful.
In the bottom of the 12th inning in Game 3 of the 1997 ALCS, the Indians had runners at the corners against the Orioles. Vizquel stepped to the plate and tried to lay down the suicide squeeze. Usually, if a player fails to lay down the bunt, the runner is like a mouse trapped in a maze. But here, Vizquel’s bunt attempt managed to confuse Baltimore catcher Lenny Webster, allowing Marquis Grissom to score with a “steal” of home. Just like with gift-giving, sometimes it’s the thought that counts.
9) Carlton Fisk’s less impressive moment
Game 3, 1975 World Series
When you think of the 1975 World Series, you likely think of Carlton Fisk’s ability to will the ball fair. You probably don’t think of a bunt.
Tied at 5 in the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 3, Ed Armbrister tried to bunt Cesar Geronimo to second, but he only hit it a few feet in front of home plate.
That’s where the fun comes in: Armbrister stopped running a few steps out of the box, forcing Fisk to reach around him for the ball. The Red Sox catcher, perhaps hoping for an interference call, then uncorked a wild throw to center field, letting both runners advance.
An intentional walk to Pete Rose and a game-winning single by Joe Morgan later and the game was over.
10) Wilson Ramos bunts off Madison Bumgarner
Game 3, 2014 NLDS
Twenty-one innings after scoring their last run in the 2014 NLDS, the Nats got runners to first and second in the seventh inning of Game 3. So, when Wilson Ramos came to the plate, and despite having not laid down a bunt since 2011, the Nats’ catcher dropped one down.
Bumgarner fielded the ball and showed off that strange ability pitchers have to make hyper-accurate throws to home plate, but literally nowhere else.