In a shift, Cust tries bunting
A's slugger negating defenses that play him to pull
LOS ANGELES -- On Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, Jack Cust jump-started an A's rally with an unconventional at-bat to lead off the sixth inning.
Instead of rifling a single or a double to right field, Cust decided to go around the Dodgers' defensive shift rather than trying to power through it. Cust dropped a bunt to a wide-open left side of the infield for an easy single.
"I just started doing it this year because I get so many hits taken away with the shift that I just figured I'd get some back," Cust said before Thursday's game.
Because the left-handed Cust is primarily a pull hitter, opposing defenses have shifted their strategies to overloading the right side of the field. The second baseman plays a shallow right field, and the shortstop and third baseman move over one position.
The formation generally is effective, and Cust said it's already robbed him of about 10 hits this season.
"You hit a hard ball up the middle or a hard ball to right field and it's an out," he said.
Oakland manager Bob Geren said after Wednesday's 5-4 win that he doesn't mind seeing the home run-hitting Cust lay down a bunt to lead off an inning. Cust leads the A's with 12 homers.
"You figure if he gets 600 at-bats and hits 30 home runs there's 570 other at-bats when he doesn't hit a home run," Geren said. "If you can tell me that he's going to lead off for sure and be on with no outs, that's not a bad play."
Not only that, but there's also the chance that more of those bunt singles could force teams to abandon the shift.
"If you have that and they stop moving guys back around for that shift, that could lead to more hits, too," Geren said.
Cust said that it's his call whether to lay down a bunt if the moment strikes him, and that he has the green light whenever he wants to do it.
"I've done it a couple times this year I think it's worked every time," Cust said. "It's an easy way to get on base."
David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.