Nothing in baseball makes major leaguers look like uncoordinated Little League kids quite like the bad hop on an infield grounder.
After all, even though the ball is technically obeying the laws of physics when it hits an obstacle or the seam rolls onto the edge of the grass and onto the dirt, it doesn’t seem that way to the poor sod tasked with trying to field the baseball in question.
Take, for example, what happened during the Houston Astros’ game Tuesday against the in-state rival Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park.
In this case, the pitcher’s mound imparted spin to the ball, hitting it on the first hop such that it jumped up like a dog welcoming its owner home from work and smacked Alex Bregman of the Astros right in the face.
Shin Soo-Choo hit the ball and from his point of view got lucky; had Bregman fielded the ball cleanly, the ingredients were there for a 6-4-3 double play, Bregman in this case playing shortstop but shifted over to the right side of the infield for Soo-Choo’s at-bat.
Instead, the Rangers extended the inning on what was ruled an infield hit rather than an error, but they were not able to score despite having the bases loaded and one out; Astros pitcher Cy Sneed struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
They had, however, jumped out to a 5-0 lead by then thanks to four runs in the first and one in the third before Soo-Choo came up to bat, a score that provided the final for the ballgame.
Bregman ended up coming out of the game with what the Astros described as a chin laceration, which in turn required four stitches.
Alex Bregman got four stitches for his chin laceration. Astros are unsure of his status for tomorrow.
— Hunter Atkins (@HunterAtkins35) July 12, 2019
Manager A.J. Hinch called the play “scary.” He didn’t give a timeline for Bregman’s return to the lineup; any injury to the head must be thoroughly checked out since the prevailing wisdom is that you can’t be too cautious.
“He was bleeding when I got out there,” Hinch said. “It took a really nasty hop for him. We’ll see how he is.”
“He’ll get checked out for everything nowadays,” the manager continued. “Anything that happens like that you’re going to run through the process, the protocol. He’s going to see every specialist he needs to to make sure he’s OK.”
The Astros are paper-thin at shortstop on their depth chart, with Carlos Correa and Aledmys Diaz both injured. However, they have several second basemen who can play the other side of the bag in a standard infield lineup if necessary.
And if that’s not a worthwhile solution, Hinch can always reach into the minor leagues, where Jack Mayfield is available on the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate, the Round Rock Express, and could answer the call to arms to reinforce a depleted army on the big-league front.
Houston entered the All-Star break with the third-best record in all of baseball; the loss to Texas drops the Astros behind Minnesota in winning percentage and into fourth. This is all the more impressive considering that only four of their position players have played at least 90 percent of the team’s games thanks to that raft of injuries.
Bregman leads the team in games played with 89; he had before last night been a relative iron man with just two days off for rest.
Utility man Myles Straw replaced Bregman in the lineup Thursday. In 54 at-bats this season, he is hitting .296 and posting an excellent .406 on-base percentage.
As for Bregman, if there’s one silver lining to all this, some kid in Little League getting flummoxed by a bad hop at least has the comfort of knowing it happens to the big leaguers too.
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