The defensive shift tempts batters as much as it frustrates them. A well-placed bunt kills the shift and discourages defenses from trying it in the future. Of course, beating the shift is easier said than done.
Cincinnati Reds right fielder Scott Schebler discovered that Wednesday at Great American Ball Park. His attempt to beat a shift by the Baltimore Orioles failed when he bunted back to pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. Schebler was not pleased when he returned to the dugout.
“It stinks to throw away at-bats,” Schebler said Thursday before the series finale. “That’s part of the game. You’ve only got so many chances.”
Schebler bunted to the left side for a hit to beat the shift Sunday against the Brewers. He has tried it twice now.
“It’s all situation based,” he said. “It’s definitely one of those things you can’t do until you get to the plate because you don’t know if they’re going to shift you. I messed up on a changeup yesterday. I came forward with it. It’s just one of those things. I practice it a lot. I have had success with it. I will do it again at some point.”
Even if he’s successful half the time, Schebler will consider that an accomplishment.
“Three out of 10 is a success in this game,” Schebler said. “If you can do something at a 50-percent rate, that’s a good thing.”
Schebler has struggled in the first month. Through Wednesday, he was hitting .170. In the first six games of this 10-game homestand, he was 3-for-19.
Schebler has hit sixth in the order 10 times, fifth twice and fourth once. Manager Bryan Price batted him seventh Thursday but said it didn’t have anything to do with his struggles. It was more about the pitcher on the mound, Orioles left-hander Wade Miley. Price wanted Zack Cozart to hit sixth, one spot after Eugenio Suarez because the right-handed Cozart hits better against lefties than the left-handed Schebler.
Price remains confident in Schebler, who isn’t the only Reds batter struggling. Jose Peraza is hitting .228. Joey Votto is hitting .222.
“I have no loss of confidence in Scott,” Price said. “I think Scott can be a sensational player in this league. He has all the physical tools to be an outstanding player. I have as much confidence in him being a great player than maybe even he does, but I doubt that. I’m very optimistic about Scott’s future. It’s a slow start, but he’ll be joining that fraternity of a lot of really good players who have got off to slow starts.”
Cubs at Reds, 7:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410