Plays at home might be what fans come out to see, but plays at third can be just as important in determining the outcome of a game.
The Tri-City Dust Devils came out on the wrong end of one of those plays in a 1-0 loss to the Spokane Indians on Sunday at Gesa Stadium.
With runners on first and second, nobody out and the top of the order at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, Taylor Featherston laid a bunt down the first base side.
Nine times out of ten, it would have been good enough to move the runners up 90 feet. Not Sunday.
Indians' first baseman Trever Adams charged in, fielded the ball cleanly and fired over to third to try to get Tyler Massey on the force play. Adams' throw was low, but third baseman Drew Robinson scooped it out of the dirt for the out, saving at least one run.
Tri-City manager Fred Ocasio kicked the dirt a bit in frustration after the play, knowing how important it was.
"It was a good bunt. It would have been better down the (first base) line," Ocasio said after the Dust Devils' first loss over the last four games. "They got lucky, but you have to give (Robinson) credit. That's a hell of a play."
The next batter, Tim Smalling, still had a chance to drive in the tying run with Brian Humphries at second and Featherston at first. He would face Spokane closer Matt West, who gave up a walk-off home run to Jayson Langfels in a 6-5 extra-inning Dust Devils win on July 2.
"(West) has been snakebit this year. One pitch always seems to do him in," said Indians manager Tim Hulett. "You always have that in the back of your mind. But he's a strong-willed kid."
Ocasio was happy to see his best hitter at the plate, but he wasn't necessarily happy to see West.
"You're never happy to see the other team's closer, even though we were able to get to him with Langfels," Ocasio said. "We had a chance to win."
But Smalling grounded West's first pitch to second baseman Rougned Odor, who tagged Featherston running to second and threw to first to complete the game-ending double play.
Spokane starter Chris Hanna (3-1) got the win, allowing just two hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. His counterpart, Tyler Gagnon gave the Dust Devils 5 1/3 quality innings, giving up just two hits and striking out seven. But the 6-foot-3 right-hander was befell by an errant pickoff throw in the top of the sixth, when he tried to catch Odor leaning at first.
Odor went to second on the error, took third on a sacrifice fly by Adams and scored on an RBI double by Brett Nicholas.
"You mess up one time, and that's big. But it's part of the game. I'm more mad at myself than anything," said Gagnon (3-2), who took the loss. "
Notes: Today's pitching matchups: Tri-City RHP Ben Alsup (3-1, 2.67 ERA) against Spokane RHP Nick McBride (1-2, 4.34 ERA). ... Dust Devils 1B/DH Jordan Ribera remained hitless in eight games since Aug. 13 after coming back from a groin injury. He is 0-for-26 with one run scored during that stretch, and his batting average has dropped from .320 to .256. ... Dust Devils alumni update: SS Joey Wong (2009) went 2-for-4 with a 3-run home run to lead the Asheville Tourists to a 13-5 home win over the Rome Braves. At High-A Modesto, LHP Chad Bettis (2010) improved to 12-5, giving up just one run on three hits over five innings to get the win in the Nuts' 6-1 home victory over the Visalia Rawhide. At Triple-A Colorado Springs, Michael Paulk (2005) went 3-for-5, and Scott Beerer (2009) added a solo home run in the SkySox' 6-5 loss to visiting Salt Lake.