SAN DIEGO -- Pinch-hitter extraordinaire Mark Kotsay did exactly what his teammates have come to expect from him in Friday night's win over the Rockies: he came in to hit for the pitcher in the eighth, got a hit and sparked a rally.
But while his teammates may not have been surprised by the result, they were visibly amused by the way he did it: the 36-year-old squared late on an offering from Rockies' reliever Mike Ekstrom and laid a surprise bunt in front of third baseman Jordan Pacheco.
Kotsay chugged down the first-base line, narrowly beating the throw, and garnering some jeers and cheers from his teammates before being immediately pinch-run for by Cameron Maybin.
The play and Kotsay's prompt exit afterward revealed the step or two lost by the veteran after over a decade and a half of the daily baseball grind. But it also displayed the wisdom gained in that tenure, the component of Kotsay's game that has helped him to endure as a valuable component of each of the seven teams with which he's played.
"This is about winning baseball games and being a baseball player," Kotsay said of his decision to bunt despite being known more for line drives and home runs. "To think the game through and be ready for those situations and be able to execute them is something I take pride in."
It's said that good hitters are willing to take what the defense gives them, but no one could blame Kotsay, coming to the plate with no one out, no one on -- and 1,741 hits under his belt -- if he hadn't given a second thought to where Pacheco was playing. But the seasoned vet took a look, took a shot, and ended up setting up a crucial insurance run.
"I look for that any time I lead off an inning or the circumstances in the game call for it, just based on the time or score in the game," Kotsay said. "You smell a hit, you smell a hit."