Francona sticks by decision to sacrifice bunt

Francona sticks by decision to sacrifice bunt

CLEVELAND -- One day after a bunt went wrong at a critical time, Indians manager Terry Francona defended his decision to have Mike Aviles attempt a sacrifice. The ninth-inning strategy backfired and played a role in a 2-0 loss to the Royals on Tuesday night.

"I felt like our best chance to tie that game and keep playing was to get a bunt down and have second and third," Francona said before Wednesday's game. "It's fun to talk about, because everybody has their opinion, which is part of what's really cool about this game. But, better, worse, right or wrong, that's how I felt about it."

With the Tribe trailing by two runs, Royals closer Greg Holland issued a leadoff walk to Lonnie Chisenhall and then gave up a hard-hit single to Yan Gomes. The reliever's average velocity on the night was 91.3 mph, which is roughly 5 mph lower than a month ago. After Gomes' hit, Royals manager Ned Yost and a trainer met briefly with Holland on the mound.

Even with Holland looking like he was laboring, Francona sent Aviles to the plate as a pinch-hitter with the intention of bunting. With a successful bunt, Francona planned on turning to switch-hitting Jose Ramirez later in the inning to bat for the right-handed Giovanny Urshela. Instead, Aviles bunted the ball in the air to Holland, who bobbled it before throwing to third base for a forceout.

Abraham Almonte and Urshela were then retired by Holland to end the inning.

"I just felt like that was our best chance to keep that game going," Francona said of the bunt. "The way [Holland] was throwing, I saw it, too. It almost made me more want to bunt. ... That's what I intended to do and I wanted to do. It didn't work, but I didn't go home last night and beat myself up."

Smoke signals
• Francona said he was "jolted" when the fireworks operator accidentally launched some pyrotechnics after Kansas City's Alex Rios belted a fifth-inning home run against the Indians on Tuesday. Quipped Francona: "I hope that guy's not in charge of the Fourth of July fireworks. They might be in August. No, in a moment when you probably weren't real happy, that was a little levity."

Francona added that he didn't even realize fireworks were launched after homers.

"I didn't even know. That's unbelievable," Francona said with a laugh. "I asked [bench coach Brad Mills], 'Do they do that when we [hit a homer]?' He just looked at me. I don't remember ever seeing it or hearing it. You learn something new every day."

• Francona joked that right-hander Corey Kluber will be on a pitch count of "140-150" when he returns to the mound on Thursday, following a two-week layoff due to a strained right hamstring. Kidding aside, the Indians will monitor Kluber closely throughout his upcoming outing against the Royals, considering the ace has not pitched in a game since Aug. 29.

"We'll watch him," Francona said. "If we need to take him out at a certain point, we will. That's not really that hard. I don't know that there has to be a fixed [pitch count] number."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.