CLEVELAND – Spoiling valuable opportunities can be the difference between extending a season-long winning streak and suffering a hard-fought loss on the road.
The Indians still might be kicking themselves after a 6-5 loss on Tuesday evening from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
With runners at first and second and no outs in a 5-5 game against the Orioles, the hot-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall executed a flawless sacrifice bunt down the third base line to put a pair of runners in scoring position in the seventh inning.
Station-to-station baseball seemed to be the approach in delivering the knockout bunch to the worst pitching staff in the big leagues.
Baltimore elected to intentionally walk Carlos Santana and load the bases before Yan Gomes struck out on three pitches and Bradley Zimmer grounded out to first base, leaving all three runners stranded in a display of frustration.
One half-inning later, Baltimore took the lead and never looked back in front of 22,891 roaring fans.
It is easy to say this chance to score could have been handled differently, but better to dig deep into the stats to help determine the proper plan of attack for such a situation.
In looking at the numbers, Chisenhall is one of the best power hitters on the roster with team-leading marks in slugging percentage (.618) and isolated power (.320), two of the most telling stats for players capable of blasting the ball with authority. Chisenhall is also making hard contact at a 34% clip, another unprecedented rate that justifies his remarkable .298/.356/.618 slash line.
Only three hitters have a slugging percentage higher than Chisenhall (min. 130 at-bats): Yonder Alonso (.622), Ryan Zimmerman (.661) and Aaron Judge (.704).
Only one of those booming bats has bunted this season…
The 28-year-old had the bat taken out of his hand when the team needed it most, leaving the remainder of the frame in the hands of Gomes and Zimmer after the free pass to Santana.
While Chisenhall’s power is evident throughout the campaign, his .317/.333/.732 averages and 1.065 OPS with runners in scoring position are all team-leading totals (min. 30 at-bats) that have been relatively unnoticed.
Although the right fielder now bats fifth in the revamped batting order, he still received the bunt sign with Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion patiently waiting for him to bring them around.
Chisenhall only has 14 sacrifice bunts and two bunts for hits over the course of his 623-game career.
Not only does this make him an unreliable option to lay it down in the heat of the ballgame, but it also takes the bat out of his hands, the same hands that are putting together a breakout season and unlocking his full potential as a former first-round pick.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.