Culberson's small ball sets Rangers up for big game

2 years ago

ARLINGTON — The saying goes “never bunt, hit dingers,” but Rangers utility man Charlie Culberson thinks a little differently.

In the Rangers’ 7-3 win over the Braves on Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Field, Culberson made one of the biggest plays when he decided to go for a squeeze bunt with runners on the corners and one out in the third inning.

The Georgia native laid down the perfect bunt, a bouncing dribbler down the first-base line, and Nick Solak — who stole third on the previous pitch — immediately took off from third base, intent on scoring. Braves first baseman Matt Olson flipped the ball home instead of taking the sure out at first, and Solak smoothly evaded the tag at the plate to extend the Rangers’ lead to two runs.

“That was all me,” Culberson explained. “The situation kind of called for it. It’s just playing small ball and we’ve been working on it, so I thought I might as well pull it out and use it there. … That’s baseball. I saw [Solak] got a good jump, and I knew that even if there was one strike, there was a good chance I was probably going to try to lay a bunt down. It was good baseball, it was fun baseball. Sometimes bunts aren’t the most fun, but it’s part of it, and it worked out well for us.”

Manager Chris Woodward said that sometimes he or third-base coach Tony Beasley will call a sacrifice bunt, but, ultimately, the hitters have the option to make that decision themselves.

Culberson acknowledged that while players would like to try for a base hit every at-bat, sometimes the situation calls for a bunt to keep the momentum going offensively.

“It’s just one of those plays where I practice it almost every day,” Culberson said. “As a baserunner, you know when that situation comes up to be ready for it. It was just a perfect time to get the guy from third. There’s a chance that if I swing the bat, I ground into a double play. With Nick and his speed, he’s ready for it. It was a cool play, a sacrifice and [a] free RBI. It’s some small ball.”

The entire third-inning sequence was even bigger in the moment because the Braves scored two in the top half of the inning, helping cut into the Rangers’ lead.

And the sacrifice bunt set Adolis García up for a big moment. The outfielder broke the game wide open two batters later with a bases-clearing three-run triple that put the Rangers up for good. García finished with a three-hit, four-RBI afternoon.

“It sets you up for a huge innings,” said Woodward of the Rangers’ aggressive approach at the plate. “It separates you. We haven’t really had a big inning like that separated [us] in a while. … Adolis has been looking really good lately. He’s voicing his understanding of what he’s trying to accomplish and every at-bat is executed. There’s a lot more dedication to going out there with a plan. I think he’s reaping the benefits.”

All season, Woodward has emphasized being aggressive in all facets of the game — at the plate, on the basepaths and everything in between. Solak’s steal of third base, Culberson’s sacrifice bunt and García’s offensive approach are prime examples of players doing whatever it takes to move the line forward without relying on a home run.

“As soon as they get on base, they’re ready to run,” Woodward said. “The goal is to just add constant pressure. And have good at-bats. Like how are we going to create offense? Guys are starting to understand that you don’t have to go out and hit five home runs to score. You can walk, you can bunt, you can do lots of things to put pressure. When we create that kind of pressure offensively and actually go up like that, we can score. You don’t have to blast balls all over the plate.”