MILWAUKEE -- Yuniesky Betancourt blamed a tough pitch for his poor bunt in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Cardinals, and his manager insisted the inconsistent shortstop, hitless in his last 22 at-bats through that bunt attempt, was not in need of a day off.
After returning from the All-Star break scorching hot, with a .380 batting average and 20 RBIs in 25 games from July 14-Aug. 11, Betancourt has cooled again. From Aug. 12 through Tuesday, he batted .129 in 18 games with five RBIs.
"I just had a conversation with him, and we've been talking about what he's been doing," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said on Wednesday afternoon. "Really, [Tuesday] is the only day he did not square up at least one ball. He's been hitting balls hard, but he hasn't been getting any hits. He's not hitting like he was before when he was hot, and he was squaring up two or three balls a game. But he's been squaring up at least one, and it seems to go right at somebody.
"I don't think he's at the point where I have to get him out of there. He's playing good defense, and he feels pretty good at the plate. We're hoping he gets that back."
During his post-break spree, Betancourt batted .410 on balls in play. Since Aug. 12, that number has dropped to .129. The average is usually around .300.
Betancourt had a chance to help the Brewers win Tuesday's series opener against St. Louis, when he was called upon to bunt with two on, no outs and his team facing a 2-1 deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning. He recoiled on an inside pitch from Cardinals reliever Fernando Salas and hit a hard bunt to a charging Albert Pujols, who retired the lead runner and nearly initiated a double play.
Betancourt was safe at first base only because the relay throw skipped in the dirt.
"I saw the ball coming in towards me and was just trying to get the ball out," said Betancourt, with reliever Frankie De La Cruz serving as interpreter. "I really tried to bunt the ball, but that's a really hard pitch to bunt."
Replays and still photographs showed that Betancourt had his right hand wrapped all the way around the bat, and Salas' pitch actually hit some of his fingers. Asked about that bunting method, Roenicke said, "Surprisingly, a lot of guys do that when they bunt. It works, but you need to hit it where you want to on the bat."
Considering he has zero sacrifice bunts this season, was Betancourt surprised to see one called in that spot?
"No, no," he said. "That's the situation right there. It was a tough pitch to bunt."