In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: what and what not to do when your team holds a big lead late in the game.
When Marlins rookie Eric Reed tried to bunt for a base hit with his team holding an 8-0, fifth-inning lead over the Pirates in 2006, he was struggling with a .114 batting average and trying to use his speed to jump-start his offensive game. It didn’t work—Reed was thrown out—but it did manage to stir up the Pittsburgh dugout, where manager Jim Tracy and pitching coach Jim Colborn seethed.
As Reed ambled back to the bench, Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis turned to first baseman Wes Helms in the dugout and said, “He’s getting hit the next time up.” “You think so?” asked Helms. “Yep,” said Willis.
Sure enough, the next time Reed came up, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, he was drilled by Pirates reliever John Grabow—the only baserunner Grabow allowed in the span of seven batters, five of whom he struck out. The intent of the pitch was clear.
“You knew that just about every game Eric was going to try to bunt for a hit at least once,” said his teammate, Matt Herges. “But he didn’t know. He had no idea and he got drilled, and he was pretty upset about it.”
“It wasn’t a very pleasant conversation between the two sides of the field,” said Tracy. “Mr. Reed got … a little reminder of the fact that, hey, don’t do that shit. And no one on their side of the field said one word. It was done very professionally, a nice little jolt to the hip, take your base and we’re done.”
After the game, several Marlins veterans “loud-talked” the locker room, addressing no one and everyone at the same time, their message boiling down to, “No more bunting with a big lead because you’ll get drilled, and you might get us drilled.”