Sunday, July 13, 2008
Stealing A Win: Angels 4, A's 3
But it was Mike Scioscia's performance in the ninth that really won this game. With the Angels back 3-2 (thanks to a Jack Cust home run off Darren Oliver — does Scioscia ever pay attention to Oliver's weird reverse splits against lefties?), Torii Hunter led off with an infield single to a wobbly Huston Street. That brought up Juan Rivera, who banged one up the middle to put men on the corners in typical Angels fashion. The moment of genius was pinch-running Reggie Willits for Rivera, and not necessarily to steal, either. Howie Kendrick then hit a sacrifice fly to push the tying run across, though it did not move Willits to scoring position. Instead, Scioscia had reserve catcher Ryan Budde bunt Willits to second. (Scioscia called in Budde when Gary Matthews, Jr. ill-advisedly pinch-hit for Jeff Mathis in the seventh, a move that backfired when it ended in a GIDP.)
So, the craziness then started. Erick Aybar, who had done jack all night, got a swinging infield bunt. Willits, going on contact, ran hard around third, and with the A's shortstop focused on the out at first, Willits scored. Worse, for the A's, Aybar was safe, and the lead changed hands.
Frankie came in to nail down the save, but not without a lot of nail-biting, including a bases-loaded, one-out jam that he escaped by striking out Daric Barton and Kurt Suzuki. At any given moment it looked like a lost game.
Finally: deserved props to Dustin Moseley, who pitched well in an emergency callup (Jose Arredondo got the win in relief, though), and a big raspberry (from both sides, no doubt) to home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor, who as usual called one of the most inconsistent strike zones in the majors. The Angels leave Oakland with a six-game lead at the break, and whew.
Update: Lost before the game: Sean Rodriguez was optioned to AAA Salt Lake to make room for Moseley.
Also noteworthy to note, the 57 wins at the All Star break are an Angel record, and this also ties them for the best record in MLB at the break (the best in the AL too)
Does anybody else have a non-pitcher sac bunt with 1 out? I suspect it's a poor percentage play, and the only other time I can remember it is in the 2002 WS with Jose Molina. Maybe Sciosia's extensive NL experience lets him not mind doing that with his worst hitter. Or maybe he's trying to build up the guy's confidence, make sure something positive comes of the at-bat. It certainly paid off this time with Budde.