The Bears turned a triple play last night, but couldn’t manage a win against the Lancaster Barnstormers.
In the top of the third inning, Newark starter Kelvim Villa hit Lancaster catcher Octavio Martinez with a pitch and walked left fielder Brett Flowers. Barnstormers manager Tom Herr called upon his leadoff hitter, second baseman Lloyd Turner, to bunt.
The ball died near home plate, and it looked like Turner initially thought it was foul – he didn’t get a good start to first base. Catcher Isaiah Kaaihue pounced on it and fired to third for the first out. Third baseman Eric Munson relayed to shortstop Randy Gress at second base for out number two. Gress threw on to first base for the final out.
In the bottom half of the inning, Tim Raines fell victim to the allure of the sacrifice bunt. Tim Raines Jr. and Kennard Jones started the inning with back-to-back singles off Lancaster starter Josh Hall. Raines asked his number three hitter, Brian Barton, to bunt. Unlike Turner, Barton got the bunt down and advanced the runners to second and third. Daryle Ward hit a hard ground ball right at the first baseman, so Raines Jr. was unable to score. Herr intentionally walked Carl Everett, and Hall got Kaaihue to ground out to end the inning.
Bunting should generally be left to the starting pitcher – wasting outs is just not good baseball.
Despite the final score, the Bears’ lack of offense is what kept them from winning last night’s game. Villa struggled with his command at times, but at other times he looked dominant. Over 6 1/3 innings, he allowed three earned runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six. If it wasn’t a great performance, it was good enough to give his team a chance to win.
Hall allowed eight hits and four walks over six innings, but the Bears only managed to score one run against him. That came in the first inning when Ward hit into a double play with the bases loaded.
The Barnstormers turned a total of three double plays, and both teams had runners get caught in rundown plays because of indecision on whether to advance or retreat.
The Barnstormers broke the game open against the Bears bullpen. Nick Renault made his Bears debut, surrendering two runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk in the ninth inning.
Renault was issued #21, even though the Bears had a big ceremony to retire it in honor of Roberto Clemente last year. Then again, Anthony Manuel and Victor Rodriguez also wore #21 this year, so I guess the “retirement” only lasted until the end of the 2009 season.
So far this season, I’ve seen a no-hitter and a triple play at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium in Newark. All that’s left is a cycle… I’ll make it to four or five more games before the end of the season, so there’s still a chance.