When constructing a batting order, the old-school philosophy is to have a No. 2 hitter who can handle the bat — one who is particularly adept at bunting.
So, yes, Christian Colon fits the bill.
Though Colon led Omaha with 58 RBIs and was second with 12 homers, he also put down a PCL-best 15 sacrifice bunts this season.
He had two more Wednesday in Game 1 of the PCL championship series — giving him three in the postseason — including an eighth-inning sacrifice that put the go-ahead run into scoring position.
“I'm ready to go right there,” Colon said. “That's helping the team out, and I'm all about that.”
Top players typically aren't asked to bunt, and Colon would seem to fit that description as the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft. But that isn't the case.
“I went to (Cal State) Fullerton, so you had to bunt,” Colon said. “I learned a lot there. We bunted a lot. We practiced a lot of bunting.”
And it's served him well professionally. He led the Class AA Texas League with 21 sacrifices in 2011 for Northwest Arkansas.
“It's something I always have in my back pocket,” Colon said. “… Even with one strike, I can still get it down.”
Colon was called upon to sacrifice in the sixth inning, and he took one shot at bunting for a base hit (pushing it foul), before he successfully sacrificed on the next pitch.
“He's very good at the sac bunt, or bunting for base hits, he handles the bat well,” Omaha manager Mike Jirschele said.
With a few hours to kill Wednesday between Games 1 and 2 in a split doubleheader, Colon was asked what he might do.
“Maybe I'll bunt a couple of times,” Colon said.
There aren't many split doubleheaders in the minor leagues — Wednesday was Omaha's first since 2008 — but players' schedules weren't thrown off too much after the Storm Chasers' 3-2 afternoon win in the completion of Tuesday's suspended game.
The game ended slightly after 3 p.m., at a time when players are already typically at the park for a 7 p.m. game.
“Just want to stay relaxed and loose, get something to eat and get ready for the next one,” Colon said. “The next one is bigger than the first one.”
Typical on-field pregame work, including batting practice, was called off.
“They're just taking it easy, wasting time and trying to relax … and then be ready to go at 7:05,” Jirschele said.
A couple of players were going to do some hitting drills at the indoor facility. A few pitchers threw around a flying disc on the field. With a mandated report time of 5 p.m., a couple went out for coffee or had various other plans.
“I'm going to go take a power nap, try to trick myself into thinking it's a whole new day,” Ben Broussard said, before leaving the clubhouse.
It never fails
Yes, Jirschele thought about pinch-running for Manny Pina in the seventh inning. The Omaha catcher doubled in the tying run with two outs, but he isn't exactly fleet of foot.
But defense comes first in a tie game.
“I thought about it, but we were tied and I didn't want to lose him (defensively) behind the plate,” Jirschele said. “And sure enough we hit a ball like that — it never fails.”
Paulo Orlando singled up the middle and Jirschele, particularly with two outs, took the chance and sent Pina home. Pina slid wide of the plate, trying to reach back to the plate to avoid the tag of catcher Luke Carlin.
He was called out.
“Tie game, I don't want to lose him because he can stop the running game,” Jirschele said. “If we had been behind by a run I would have definitely pinch run because we had to try to make something happen.”
Jirschele sends them home
Usually the loudest negatives coming from the home crowd are when the third-base coach — Jirschele — holds runners at third base rather than sending them home.
But Jirschele forgot to bring the stop sign with him Wednesday in Game 1, with back-to-back plays at the plate in the seventh inning (one safe, one out) and then the go-ahead play at the plate in the eighth.
Omaha tied the game as Pina doubled into the left-field corner, and Rey Navarro scored all the way from first. Left fielder Roberto Lopez had to dig the ball out of the corner, and shortstop Tommy Field's relay throw was accurate but late.
Pina was thrown out by Scott Cousins at the plate to end the seventh, but Jirschele tested Cousins again in the eighth — scoring Irving Falu from second base on Broussard's single to center. Cousins had to move toward left center to field Broussard's hit.
“Three close plays,” Jirschele said. “I saw the bobble down the left-field line (on Pina's double), and that's why I sent Rey — I knew they had a shot if they made a good throw to Field. But Rey did a heck of a job cutting the bases and giving himself a chance to score.
“(After Pina was thrown out) It's just a tougher throw to make,” Jirschele said. “Any time you're going side to side, it's more difficult than if you're coming straight in.”
Mariot's streak continues
Michael Mariot can't quite put a finger on it. He was having a solid season, but it's warped into outstanding during a streak of 25 innings without allowing an earned run that stretches back to July.
Mariot struck out two of the three batters he faced while pitching the ninth inning to pick up the save in Game 1.
“I've worked on locating my fastball more,” Mariot said. “I've still walked quite a few (during the streak), but I feel like I've done a better job locating my fastball, especially against lefties.”
Mariot finished the regular season 4-5 with a 3.56 ERA. He had 11 saves and 66 strikeouts in 602⁄3 innings. During his streak, he's struck out 28, walked 12 and given up 12 hits.
He pitched three innings for the save in Game 1 of the Oklahoma City series, but the long outing made him unavailable for the rest of the series. He hadn't pitched for eight days before prior to Wednesday.
“I was kind of nervous, because I hadn't pitched for so long I wasn't sure where the ball was going to be going,” Mariot said. “But I'm pretty happy about how it turned out.”