Voigt's bunt puts one down in win column

INSIDE PITCH

May 11, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

More often than not, a sacrifice bunt turns out to be just that -- the sacrifice of an out.

However, there are rare instances, when the execution is perfect on the offensive end, that the play becomes the key factor not only in an inning, but also in a game. Such was the case for the Orioles in Monday night's 4-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Even though Jack Voigt's seventh-inning bunt single didn't produce the big inning it could have, it did set up what proved to be the winning run. And it should be pointed out that although the "book" dictated a sacrifice attempt in that situation, it wasn't manager Johnny Oates' first strategical choice.

In a tie game, the Orioles had runners on first and second with nobody out after a bloop single by Lonnie Smith and an infield hit by Mark McLemore. At that point, only two of the five hits left-hander Al Leiter had allowed -- a second-inning single by Chris Hoiles and a seventh-inning double by Rafael Palmeiro -- were of the legitimate variety.

Voigt, the No. 9 hitter, took a .190 average with him to home plate. That alone would've seemed to make the call for a sacrifice a "no brainer," but Oates wasn't completely comfortable with the possibilities. Had his original strategy worked, the Orioles might have had a big inning.

"Brady [Anderson] has been struggling a little bit [0-for-21, including his first three attempts against Leiter], so I wanted to give Jack one swing," said Oates. "With the fielders moving [to defense the expected bunt], anything could happen.

"But after Jack fouled off the pitch, with one strike I had to take my chances with the bunt. As it turned out, he read the situation and put down a perfect one."

From Voigt's standpoint, the foul may have been the key to success. "I figured they'd be looking for the bunt and would throw a high fastball to try and get a pop-up," he said. "The pitch I swung at was probably neck high, but I was looking for something up there and took a hack."

The next thing Voigt did was check the defense. He noticed that Ed Sprague had charged hard from the left side and first baseman John Olerud stayed back as the Blue Jays tried to set up a play at third base.

"I figured if I got the ball down on the right side, it would be tough for a left-hander to make a play at third, and if I could get it past him it would be a race between me and Olerud, which is what happened," said Voigt.

With the bases loaded and nobody out, the Orioles were in a position to do more damage than they did. But Voigt's hit did remove any margin of error for Leiter, and Anderson's ensuing sacrifice fly provided the go-ahead run.

Big innings, rather than little ones, are usually required to beat the Blue Jays, but on this occasion Voigt's bunt set up a rare exception.

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