ST. LOUIS — Who knew some small ball could cause such a big stir?
The bunt Carlos Beltran laid down Monday was still a hot topic Tuesday — until Beltran dismissed it with some words and a swing.
But first things first.
Beltran bunted for the seventh time in as many years Monday, in the seventh inning of what turned out to be a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The sacrifice moved two runners, Adron Chambers and Matt Carpenter, into scoring position. While Chambers later scored, Carpenter got stranded. The inning ended with the Dodgers ahead 3-2, the game’s final score.
Legitimate questions followed.
Had Beltran been told to bunt?
Had he made that decision on his own?
Matheny stiff-armed such queries Monday but on Tuesday he explained.
“The only reason I was visibly upset was that I tried to get around a question there really wasn’t going to be a good answer for,” he said. “It wouldn’t be left alone. You guys out there, in whatever walk of life, if somebody keeps doing the same thing to you, pretty soon you’re going to react. That was a tough spot because I do want to support my players. At the cost of people being angry at me, that’s the price you have to pay for this job. I get that. When there is a topic that is obvious I can’t go really further with, I hope we all respect the fact that that’s what it is — instead of trying to beat a dead horse.”
“There are a lot of people that would rather see the bunt completely eliminated from the game,” he said when asked why bunting is such a hot-button issue. “I’m not one of them. I also don’t think you should give away outs.”
The manager was trying to protect Beltran. Turns out Beltran outed himself. The slugger said he made the call.
“What happened yesterday is in the past,” Beltran said. “I did it thinking about the team. Sometimes, as a second hitter, I get caught thinking about the situation.”
He didn’t overthink Tuesday. The result was a 2-for-4 evening highlighted by a home run to right-center field. It was the Cardinals’ first homer at Busch since July 10, and Beltran’s first since June 30. The Cardinals won 5-1.
“I told him to bunt,” Matheny said. “He didn’t listen today.”
He was joking, of course.
“What is important to me is just trying to get on base — anyhow,” Beltran said. “Base hit. Double. Triple. Homer.”
He didn’t mention bunt.
Probably for the best.
Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org