When a team employs a defensive shift against a hitter, it is effectively offering its opponent a deal: You can have a free single to the opposite field, but you have to surrender the hope of an extra-base hit to your pull field to get it. Apparently, Colby Lewis is not on board with that exchange, as he took exception to the Blue Jays’ Colby Rasmus taking that free single with a two-out bunt in the fifth inning on Saturday afternoon.
With the Blue Jays leading 2-0, the bases empty, and two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning on Saturday, the Rangers shifted on the left-handed Rasmus, playing three infielders on the right side of second base and third baseman Adrian Beltre pulled around in the shortstop position. Rasmus, who was 1-for-2 with a single against Lewis to that point, bunted the first pitch he saw up the third base line. Lewis was able to get to the ball and make a strong throw to first, but Rasmus beat it out easily for a hit.
Lewis was not pleased, and could be seen shouting something at Rasmus on the field. After the game, Lewis clarified his position.
“I just told him I didn’t appreciate it,” Lewis said. “He laid down a bunt, basically for average and he didn’t steal within the first two pitches to put himself in scoring position.” Dan Johnson struck out on three pitches to strand Rasmus at first base. “That, to me, tells me he is solely looking out for himself, and looking out for batting average, and I didn’t appreciate it.”
Rasmus, who was hitting .220 on the season heading into that at-bat and had just three hits to left field all season, could use all of the help he can get when it comes to boosting his batting average, but Lewis couldn’t have been much more wrong about the appropriateness of Rasmus doing whatever it took to get on base. Rasmus entered that at-bat with a .273 on-base percentage on the season. That performance is extremely detrimental to the Blue Jays’ offense. Dropping down a bunt both to boost that on-base percentage and perhaps force opposing defenses to reconsider over shifting on him, a strategy that has no doubt contributed to his lousy performance this season (Rasmus was hitting .269 on balls in play entering the game), is exactly the sort of thing he needs to do to help his team.
Lewis objected to that bunt coming with two outs in a game the Blue Jays were leading, but a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning is hardly an indication that a game’s outcome is assured, and given that Lewis came into the game with a 6.54 ERA and was over 100 pitches when Rasmus stepped to the plate, it was hardly foolish for Rasmus to think he could start a two-out rally. Toronto added two more runs against reliever Ryan Feierabend in the seventh inning. The Rangers then rallied in the top of the eighth only to leave the tying runs on base as the Jays went on to win 4-1.
Asked about Lewis’s objection after the game, Rasmus said as much.
“A 2-0 ball game in the fifth, I’m just trying to get on base, get something started for my team. I’m just trying to help my team and he didn’t like that so, sorry about it. I’m not here to try and please the other side. I’m here to help my team and saw an opportunity where I could. I took advantage of it.”
Rasmus is absolutely correct, and Lewis’s objection was sour grapes at best. If Lewis had a problem with Rasmus bunting against the shift, he should have taken it up with his manager or the coach who put the shift on, not with Rasmus. All Rasmus did was take the deal that was offered to him.