It is certainly not every day that a Major League Baseball game ends on a bunt, but believe it or not, that is what happened when the Detroit Tigers took on the Tampa Bay Rays a few days ago. It was a close fought game through 12 innings of play, a true pitcher’s duel thanks to a great outing by Tampa Bay pitcher Blake Snell who went nearly 7 innings, giving up only 2 earned runs and allowing just 5 hits to the Tigers.
However, in the bottom of the 12th, Tampa Bay reliever Matt Andriese got into some early trouble and quickly found a runner on third. It was at that point things got a bit strange. Backup Tigers catcher John Hicks took basically everyone at Comerica Park by surprise when he laid down an absolutely perfect “suicide squeeze bunt” that allowed the run to come in from third base — thus costing the Rays the game. To make matters even more strange, Hicks said after the game that his manager had not even signaled for the bunt, he made the decision on his own based on where the Rays fielders were lined up. While it is certainly a heartbreaking way to lose a game for Rays fans, you at least have to tip your cap to the charisma of a backup catcher willing to take such a risk at a critical juncture in the game. The Tigers have made a concerted effort to play a quicker game under their new manager Rod Gardenhire, and you have to imagine the skipper was proud of Hicks there.
The loss dropped the Rays to 13-16 on the season putting them 8 games behind the scorching hot Boston Red Sox in the American League East division. While certainly not a glowing record, it is at least slightly better than many MLB prognosticators had the Rays begged before the season. A roster that is retooling and rebuilding, the young players on Tampa Bay learned a valuable lesson in this particular extra innings loss: never take anything for granted on the diamond and always be ready for the bunt.