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Ausmus stands by decision for Torii's sacrifice bunt

Ausmus stands by decision for Torii's sacrifice bunt

DETROIT -- Former Tigers manager Jim Leyland had a phrase he used often in his final few seasons: Just because a decision didn't work out, doesn't make it a bad decision.

His successor, Brad Ausmus, took a similar tone Thursday morning when talking about his decision Wednesday night to have Torii Hunter try to lay down a sacrifice bunt in the eighth inning with nobody out and two runners on, including the potential tying run. Yet in explaining it, Ausmus made it clear he took another look after the game.

It doesn't mean Ausmus would've done it differently, but as a first-year manager, he's not afraid to look back and second-guess himself. This might have been the closest he's come to doing the latter.

"If I were to second-guess myself," Ausmus said Thursday morning, "the one thing would be, 'Would I have Torii Hunter bunt again?' Sometimes I come up with the answer, 'Yes,' and sometimes I come up with the answer, 'No.' The truth is, if everything turned out rosy, we wouldn't be talking about this. But yeah, I certainly thought about it again.

"I go back and forth in the sense that it didn't work, but I don't think it was a bad decision."

Hunter led the American League last year in productive outs, according to the Bill James Handbook. When Hunter came to the plate last year with a runner on second and nobody out, he advanced the runner 16 out of 27 times, according to baseball-reference.com. Part of the reason Hunter bats second in the lineup is because of his ability to advance a leadoff man with a ground ball to the right side.

Hunter put up all these productive outs without an abundance of sacrifice bunts. He set a career high with three in 2013, but they came on nine attempts, according to STATS. He had three sac bunts in his previous 15 Major League seasons combined. When he did sacrifice last year, Leyland took some occasional heat for it.

Ausmus' goal was to get Miguel Cabrera to the plate with runners on second and third. After Hunter failed to get the bunt down and later grounded into a double play, Cabrera hit with a runner on third and two outs. He singled in the run with a ground ball through the left side.

"I still think that Cabrera probably doesn't end up getting walked," Ausmus said, "and if he does, we have Victor Martinez at the plate."

The bright side of the scrutiny Ausmus faces is that it suggests more fans care now than they did when Ausmus was playing on Tigers teams that regularly lost.

"I do think when I was here that the fan base was passionate," Ausmus said. "I just don't think we gave them a lot to be passionate about. The undercurrent was there, and I think now that the team's done well, that's kind of bubbled to the surface."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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