What's More Exciting, a Walkoff Home Run or a Walkoff Bunt?

↵Monday was a night for walkoff hits, as three games were decided in Major League Baseball with the last swing of the bat. Okay, fine, technically the last swing of the bat almost always officially decides the game, no matter what the score may be at the time, and fine, maybe one of the three walkoff plays wasn't even scored a hit. And fine, maybe the batter didn't even technically swing his bat, but all that makes the play that much more remarkable. ↵

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↵The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Cleveland Indians in 11 innings on a sacrifice bunt by Jason Bartlett, plating John Jaso for the game-winning run. The play was scored a sacrifice bunt and fielder's choice, thus not a hit for Bartlett. Doesn't that make the play that much cooler than the typical old swing and long drive to win the game? Walkoff taters seem to happen every night. But a bunt? Well, that did happen just a few weeks ago. In fact, when the Angels beat – how great is this – the same Indians ball club with the same move, Indians pitcher Chris Perez told reporters he thought it was "a bad baseball play that happened to work out." ↵

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↵And here it is, happening to them again. (Watch the video here.) This time, Perez had already come and gone from the mound and it was Jamey Wright on the bump who tried to field the bunt and keep the game going. ↵

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↵⇥"With Wright on the mound, he's throwing that good sinker," Bartlett said. "He's a great double-play pitcher. That was a good call by Joe [Maddon]. Getting that bunt down, you've got to put it in a good spot. They made a great try, a great effort -- just flipped it high." ↵⇥

↵⇥Cleveland manager Manny Acta noted that "guys panic when they see that type of play." ↵⇥

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↵⇥"I thought that Jamey had enough time to get the ball and throw him out because it's not a squeeze, it's a safety squeeze," Acta said. "It's not like the guy on third takes off right away. But guys usually just panic when that happens." ↵⇥

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↵Twice in two weeks? The Indians may want their pitchers to start practicing the throw to home during pre-game warm-ups or this could start happening anytime there's a runner on third with less than two outs. Could this become the new sac fly for any team facing the Tribe?
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↵Of course, who there was some controversy as to why Jaso was even on base at all, as he was called safe on an infield single where replays showed he was out by half a step. (watch that play here).: ↵
↵⇥Finally, in the 11th, the Rays were able to squeeze out the winning run, thanks in no small part to a controversial call at first. John Jaso beat out Valbuena's throw from short for a one-out infield single off Wright. ↵⇥

↵⇥That was the call, anyway. ↵⇥

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↵⇥"I thought it was absurd," Acta said. "I hate to see the human element taken out of the game, but I see why people ask about instant replay so much. [Jaso] had no business being on base." ↵⇥

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↵⇥Jaso wasn't just on base. He would go on to score the winning run. ↵⇥

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↵With all apologies to our friends at Walkoff Walk, the walkoff bunt may be the most exciting brand of walkoff wins. Think about all the elements at play in a safety squeeze to win a game. The hitter has to get a good bunt down. The runner on third, unlike with a suicide squeeze, has to gauge the play to determine if he can make it home in time. The fielder – in this case the pitcher – has to coral the ball and toss it to the catcher at home, who needs to put a tag down in order to keep the game going. After the ball is pitched, a walkoff bunt incorporates four distinct baseball plays that must be executed by four different players on the field, and whichever team has their players execute more effectively will be the team that comes away with the desired result. ↵

↵The entire play may take place within 50 feet of home plate, but there's much more going on than a swing that makes the ball go out of the yard. Sure, the fans can be more jubilant as the ball flies through the air and lands on the other side of the fence. Sure, play-by-play men like Yankee announcer John Sterling get to gear up their signature home run calls – like the call of Marcus Thames walkoff blast on Monday to defeat the rival Red Sox – but the play isn't as complex and interesting as the walkoff bunt. ↵

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↵After Aramis Ramirez crushed an 11th-inning two-run homer to lead the Cubs over the Rockies, Cubs analyst Bob Brenly may have helped my point: ↵

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↵⇥"We talked all night about the conditions here at Wrigley and how it was going to be one of those night you really had to scratch and scrape and find ways to score some runs. Well, that's a pretty easy way to score some runs right there. Aramis just shot a wind-beater to deep left field to win the ballgame." ↵
↵See…it was pretty easy to just hit a home run to end a game. Pedestrian, even. Give me the squeeze any day.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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