Zobrist not surprised by call for bunt in cleanup

LOS ANGELES -- The Cubs had runners at first and second in the first inning on Saturday and had just taken a 1-0 lead against the Dodgers' Julio Urias on Anthony Rizzo's RBI single. Cleanup batter Ben Zobrist was up, but, as Zobrist says, he's just one of many cleanup hitters in the Cubs' lineup. And Zobrist bunted, hoping for a hit, which is not something most cleanup batters would do.

With men on first and second, Zobrist didn't expect to see many pitches from Urias, and hadn't faced the young lefty before. Zobrist was given the option to bunt on the first pitch, and chose to do so again on the second.

"I'd rather be more aggressive with men in scoring position, and so, all those things put together made me think, this is not a time to take pitches as much as it's a time to take action, and the action we decided to take was bunt for a hit," Zobrist said on Sunday, wearing an appropriate "Bunt to Win" T-shirt.

There were a lot of factors involved to create the perfect situation, including Zobrist's ground-ball rate, the fact that he's a good right-handed bunter, and that he can get a bunt down for a hit.

"The cleanup spot is not cleanup with this team, if that makes sense," Zobrist said. "Every spot in the lineup has the ability to drive in runs. On other teams, where the lineup gets a little thinner toward the end of it, then the cleanup spot is more of a cleanup spot and you want to clear the bases with that hitter. With our lineup and [Addison Russell] behind me and [Jorge] Soler behind him, in that situation, there's several cleanup hitters. It's my job to move the lineup."

Zobrist wasn't surprised at the call from the bench.

"I wasn't surprised, and I thought it was a good call and that's why I did it on the second pitch," he said.

The Dodgers thought it was a smart play.

"Zobrist is a heck of player," manager Dave Roberts said. "It's his decision to give Russell, who's been hitting well, that situational at-bat. For us to get an out proved beneficial for us."

The Dodgers did give Zobrist and the Cubs something to think about. These two teams may meet again in the postseason, and at that point, Clayton Kershaw could be back, giving Los Angeles three lefties in Kershaw, Urias and Rich Hill.

"We'd have our hands full because of all the lefties they have," Zobrist said. "We have to do a better job against lefties. We have to figure out how to get more runners on base. I think we tend to rely on the homer a little too much and maybe we're not as good a home run team against those guys."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.