OAKLAND -- The Rays have 10 failed bunt attempts with two strikes this season, the most by an American League team since the designated hitter came into effect in 1973. The last time an AL team had 10 or more was 1972, when the Orioles had 15 and the White Sox had 10.
Rays manager Joe Maddon is not afraid of trying to advance the runners via the bunt with two strikes, even though a foul ball, obviously, results in an out.
Adding to the difficulty of bunting with two strikes is the fact that bunting itself is not as easy as people seem to think.
"No, it can be really hard, depending on the pitcher," Sean Rodriguez said. "If he's throwing all elevated fastballs, it's hard to stay on top of them to bunt them down. Especially if they're four-seam. And if they throw you breaking balls, it's even harder to bunt.
"... Your average sinkerball guy is the best guy to bunt, because you guarantee that it's going to go down to the ground. But even then, it's hard to keep it fair. [Bunting is] not the hardest thing to do [on a baseball field], but it's nowhere near as easy as people think it is."
Elliot Johnson smiled when asked about the perception that back in the "old days" nobody ever missed a sacrifice bunt.
"I doubt that was the case," Johnson said. "Everybody has that selective memory. Everybody was a lot better than they actually were because everybody has in their mind they were a lot better."
Matsui's request for release granted by Rays
OAKLAND -- Rays manager Joe Maddon informed reporters that he had just received the news that Hideki Matsui, who was designated for assignment on July 25, has been granted his release from the Rays.
Rather than report to Triple-A Durham, Matsui requested his release, and the Rays went with the veteran slugger's wishes.
Matsui was well respected inside the Rays' clubhouse from the players to the manager and coaches.
He hit .147 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 34 games with the Rays -- and he did not look good while compiling the paltry numbers. Nevertheless, when Maddon was asked if he thought Matsui could still play, he replied: "I do."
Heading into Wednesday afternoon's finale with the A's, Rays pitchers had struck out 10 or more batters in nine of the last 12 games and 12 of the last 17, for a total of 181 in 161 2/3 innings.
James Shields started for the Rays on Tuesday night and struck out 11, which was the 10th time this season a Tampa Bay starter had struck out 10 or more, which ranks first in the Major Leagues.
Luke Scott (mild strain of his right oblique) hit soft tosses on Wednesday and hopes to take batting practice on the field on Friday. At the very least, he plans on standing in the batter's box when Jeff Niemann throws a simulated game. The best-case scenario for Scott would be to see him head for a rehab assignment beginning Monday.
Shields' shutout Tuesday night extended his club record to seven career shutouts, all of which have come in the last five years. Tuesday night's effort was the first time he's had a game in which he didn't allow a runner to advance past first base.
It was only the fifth time that a Ray has not allowed a runner past first base in a complete game. Matt Garza was the last to do it when he no-hit the Tigers on July 26, 2010. Also, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Shields became the first Ray to throw a complete game with three hits or fewer, 10 strikeouts or more and no walks.
Following Wednesday's 4-1 win over the A's, the Rays optioned Josh Lueke back to Triple-A Durham. Lueke was brought in to help the bullpen after Monday night's 15-inning loss to the Athletics, but the club did not need him as James Shields pitched a complete game Tuesday night and Alex Cobb went seven innings Wednesday. A corresponding move will be made prior to Friday night's game against the Orioles.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.