(No high five for the bunt, Nuney. Courtesy of Getty Images)
I'm not going to lie, that shot off of Beckett in the 5th last night was a thing of beauty. 1-0 cutter up in the zone and he absolutely crushed it. It was a no-doubter practically from the time it left Beckett's hand. It's exactly that type of swing and result that has made the Yankees believe the Nunez can be a productive everyday player, and since he was inserted into the everyday mix starting with Jeter's injury, he has more than held his own. The kid is sitting .273/.325/.407 with a K rate under 10%, good for a respectable .330 wOBA. He's shown the ability to recognize pitches and situations and work counts at the plate, and he obviously has more than enough pop in the stick to get the job done.
But in the field it's a different story, and last night in the 9th was another prime example. For once, Nunez didn't botch a JV-caliber ground ball play, but his handling of Ellsbury's sac bunt attempt after the Scutaro leadoff double was atrocious. Both Orel and the immortal Bobby V called it out, and I have to say I agree with them. He was way too far in to start with and crept in even close when Mo let the pitch go. It was a horrible bunt, one that was fielded easily by Mo (who is a tremendous athlete and would be a Gold Glove-winning pitcher if he started) but when he whirled towards 3rd to make Ellsbury pay for the bad bunt, Nunez wasn't there to cover the bag. Instead he was standing right next to Mo.
Knowing the situation, Nunez should have stayed back, looking to cut down the runner at 3rd in the event of the bad bunt that they got, and let Mo handle the groundball. Everybody in the ballpark knew that was coming, and between Mo and Martin, they could have handled even a good bunt to try to make a play and cut down Scutaro. That's a situation where Chavez or A-Rod probably do the right thing and cover 3rd. But Nunez being younger, dumber, and just plain bad in the field, didn't recognize the situation, and helped contribute to the eventual loss by allowing the Sawx to get exactly what they wanted out of a bunt execution that should have ended in Scutaro being out by a mile at 3rd. And it's those continued types of errors in the field that are going to keep Nunez from ever becoming a stalwart in the everyday Yankee lineup.