Adrian bunts to beat shift, sparking Dodgers' rally
Lefty slugger drops infield single in fourth inning for LA's first hit of game
LOS ANGELES -- Adrian Gonzalez has eyed the vacant left side of the infield for quite some time. He estimated that he's squared to bunt 10 times over the past two weeks, waiting for the right pitch and the right situation to lay one down and beat the exaggerated infield shift he always faces.
On Sunday, the time finally came.
The Dodgers had gone hitless against Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller through the first three innings, looking for some sort of offensive spark in a scoreless game. Right fielder Yasiel Puig led off the fourth inning with a walk, and with Gonzalez up at the plate, the Cardinals, predictably, shifted to the right side of the infield, playing the left-handed slugger to pull.
Gonzalez squared, and this time, he placed the ball perfectly to the third-base side. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta could only pocket it.
It was just the boost the Dodgers needed. The very next batter, left fielder Matt Kemp, singled to drive in Puig, initiating a six-run explosion over a two-inning span.
"It definitely put us in a good position for Matt to have a situation to drive a guy in, and he was able to do that," Gonzalez said. "Puig's walk started it, but it was definitely a situation to get a rally going."
Gonzalez would score later in the inning on Juan Uribe's sacrifice fly. Then, in the fifth, Gonzalez drove in Puig with a more traditional swinging single.
Manager Don Mattingly said he didn't tell Gonzalez to bunt, but he'd like to see his first baseman continue to use the infield shift to his advantage.
"I'd do it every time if there's not a man in scoring position," Mattingly said. "Continue to get on base, and force them -- they're not just going to keep giving you a hit every time. They'll move that guy over, and how many balls does he hit right at the shortstop when they're playing over?
"They're going to keep doing what they're doing, and you've got to take your hits."
Michael Lananna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.