August 01, 2011
It's time for a new unwritten rule.
And that unwritten rule is this: Bunting during a no-hit bid can no longer be considered a violation of an unwritten rule.
I don't expect a lot of pushback on this, especially considering the context that Erick Aybar(notes) of the Los Angeles Angels delivered his disruptive bunt on Sunday afternoon. With Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander(notes) staked to a three-run lead and aiming for the third no-hitter of his career, Aybar laid down a bunt in the eighth inning.
Verlander fielded the ball cleanly, but threw way wide of first base. An error was generously called by the Comerica Park scorer, keeping Verlander's no-hitter intact. That still didn't prevent the power pitcher from angrily yelling at Aybar from the dugout after the inning or the crowd from booing.
Maicer Izturis(notes) would officially break up the no-hitter four batters later with a line drive. But neither that hit nor the Tigers hanging on for a 3-2 win could stop the postgame debate over whether Aybar's move was kosher.
Not surprisingly, only one person was vocal in his opposition toward it.
"Very surprised," Verlander said of the bunt attempt. "It's a three-run game. It's a close game. There's arguments both ways, but obviously from a pitching standpoint, we like to call it bush league. But there's arguments on both sides of it."
One of the many people opposing Verlander's view was his own manager, Jim Leyland, who called it a "beautiful play." As Angels starter Jered Weaver(notes) put it, "We're trying to score some runs off that guy and swinging obviously wasn't doing it."
"That's my game—I don't have power," he said. "(Verlander) told me he'd get me next year, and I said that was OK."
With both teams in heavy contention for a playoff spot, there's no way you can blame the Angels for trying to keep pace with the Texas Rangers in the AL West, no matter the means.
To Verlander's credit, he did understand that side of the argument.
But he also thought Aybar's bunt was a response to some of the game's earlier heated moments, when Carlos Guillen(notes) preened after hitting a home run and Weaver responded by throwing a pitch over Alex Avila's(notes) head — which earned him an ejection from the game.
"I think (Aybar) was trying to get his team back into the game," Verlander said. "But I also think it was a response to things that had happened before."
Whatever the motivation, Aybar's tactic was a good one as he ended up reaching second and sparked a rally that was almost successful in eking out a victory on a day when Verlander's dominance should have kept the Halos from getting anywhere close. In that context, not attempting a bunt should be considered a bigger offense than rolling over and playing dead so an opposing player can make history.
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