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Orioles respond to Twins' claims of violating 'unwritten rules' on Sisco's ninth-inning bunt

HOUSTON — After Chance Sisco’s ninth-inning bunt for a base hit against the shift irked the Minnesota Twins on their way out of Baltimore on Sunday, Orioles players came to the defense of their rookie catcher’s attempt to ignite a rally down by seven runs.

With Twins starter José Berríos working on a one-hit shutout, Sisco bunted toward third base for a single against a Minnesota full shift that left most of the infield’s left side unoccupied.

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The Twins called foul — citing a violation of the game’s unwritten rules — and while those rules do frown upon bunting for a hit during a no-hitter, the Orioles were miffed by Minnesota’s rationale.

“The problem is the unwritten rules are written differently by 30 different teams and applied differently by 30 different teams,” Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph said. “When they’re not jointly seen eye-to-eye, you’re going to have issues. One of my unwritten rules would be, don’t shift a guy in the ninth inning.”

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This is where these unwritten rules and late-game strategy collide. Joseph said if the Twins thought the game was decided, then why did they use a shift? He said that if they played Sisco straight up and Sisco attempted to reach on a bunt, they’d have a more legitimate gripe, but by making a strategic decision to take a hit away, Sisco had the right to drop a bunt where defenders weren’t.

“This game is about giving and taking,” Joseph said. “If you’re going to give something to somebody, you’d be dumb not to take it, in the same way that we shifted a guy over in a seven-run game in the eighth inning, why wouldn’t you bunt? You play straight up and you try to bunt, it’s a different thing. It’s not a no-hitter. Nobody on base. It’s not like you’re bunting in the bases loaded to score a run to break up a shutout. I don’t quite understand the logic. You’re taking away the four hole, but you’re giving up a baseline.

The situation reminded Orioles manager Buck Showalter of a time when he was with the Yankees New York Yankees and then-Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda sent a runner to steal second when first baseman Don Mattingly was positioned way behind the bag to defend the hitter.

“He came over after the game and said, ‘I just want to tell you, when you’re right behind a guy that’s fine, but when you play way back out there and now you can defend my hitter, is it fair to my hitter that because we’re good and beating you 9-0, he can’t get a hit,’ “ Showalter said. “I still remember that.

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The Twins were upset that Orioles catcher Chance Sisco bunted against the shift when the Orioles were losing by seven runs in the ninth inning.

“I just wonder where some of the bunting thing is going to end. Are you like not allowed to throw changeups when you are up 6-0? Like where does it stop?”

While the Orioles tried to look forward toward a daunting opening road series against the defending World Series champions Houston Astros, they were clearly angered by the Twins comments.

“At the end of the day, your job is to try to go out and win the game,” first baseman Chris Davis said. “For whatever reason, it’s been OK and really accepted these last few years to win the game without hurting the other team’s feelings. If it’s acceptable to shift with a seven-run lead in the ninth inning, it’s acceptable to bunt. There are certain things I don’t agree with when you talk about the unwritten rules, but I definitely think that what Chance did was warranted.”

Davis said he told Sisco that he planned to drop a bunt if he made the second out in the inning. After Sisco reached, Davis drew a one-out walk.

“We had one hit at the time, we’re down seven runs, the starter is still in the game.” Davis added. “We’re clearly not getting it done swinging the bats, so you’ve got to find a way to get runners on base. He laid the bunt down and my approach changed a little bit, but I basically said, I’m not going to swing until he throws two strikes. He’s at the end of his leash, so to speak, and kind of running on fumes and we’ve got to find a way to generate some offense. So I have no problem with it. I think it’s a nonissue and I hope it ends here. We have plenty to focus on with the Astros in front of us.”

When he heard of the Twins’ outrage, Joseph said he tried to think of it from their perspective, but couldn’t. He applauded Sisco for trying to spur the Orioles offense. The next two batters reached after Sisco’s bunt to load the bases — Davis on a walk and Manny Machado with a single — but Berríos retired the next two batters to end the game.

“Of course your initial reaction is, ‘Hmm, let me think about this for a second,’ ” Joseph said. “But then the thought end immediately when you see three guys on the right side of the infield. You can’t have it both ways. … The key is we needed to get base runners, period. Any way, any how. One run wasn’t going to run the game. We had to try to win the game, we had to try to get base runners and start a rally. We ended up getting three guys on base. Our goal was accomplished.

“You don’t like it? You want to make a guy hit it? You want to make a guy hit his way on, then don’t shift him. So what is it? You just want us to roll over? That’s the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get a different result. What if he had hit the ball in the [four] hole four times in a row? You’re still shifting him there. He’d technically be insane to hit it over there by definition.”

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