The Squeeze Was the Perfect Call

I’m over the Game 4 loss by the Angels to the Red Sox that ended their season, eliminating them from the playoffs. It certainly does sting that Jon Lester was brilliant in both Game 1 and Game 4 after I trashed him earlier in the season. Boy do I look like a dope. There are several reactions I have from the game and the loss of the Angels’ season: Frankie Rodriguez is done as an Angel, his last two most important appearances were blown games against Boston in the playoffs (one this year, one last year). What will happen with Teixeira? How did this opportunity slip away — especially with such a vulnerable Red Sox team (Beckett, Papi, Lowell are hurt and mere shades of themselves). Yes, there is disappointment, but if there’s one thing I’d like to walk away from the game saying it’s that Mike Scoscia without a doubt made the right call asking Erick Aybar to lay down a squeeze bunt in the 9th with the game tied at 2.

The Angels had lived with the squeeze play throughout the entire season and it had paid several dividends. It’s an underrated play because it’s used infrequently and has a high success rate in my opinion. They were playing for one run in a game where runs were hard to come by. You had a guy at the plate who was 2-17 in the series, and a speedy runner in Reggie Willits at third. Aybar is one of the best bunters on the team. One run gives you the lead, takes the pressure off the pitching and defense, and it really gives you some renewed confidence to close out the game. It also takes the pressure off Aybar — all he has to do is lay one down and he gave the Angels the lead. Bunting is not that hard to do; the task at hand was much simpler than delivering a game-winning hit. I don’t always agree with Scioscia’s base-running calls or hit and runs especially when they involve Mike Napoli, but I thought this was the perfect call for the perfect situation. Unfortunately it was just not executed properly by Aybar.

Additionally, Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick really let the team down in the series. Both didn’t hit for crap and played shoddy defense all series. I can’t imagine them having played worse. They really let the team down and undid the good work by many of the other players. It may sound weird to say it, but the Angels really missed Maicer Izturis — he could have executed the squeeze and played better in the field than either Kendrick or Aybar.

Sadly, Mike Scioscia comes out of the series looking like the poor manager. Mike DiGiovanna in the LA Times roundly criticized Scioscia for the move, making it the focal point of his filing from Boston. It was without a doubt the right move, and DiGiovanna looks like a guy trying to pick a fight more than someone looking at the logic of the situation. And John Lackey’s exactly right — what hurts the most is that this team was better than Boston’s this year. It was a matter of poor execution, not poor decision-making that doomed the Angels. Overall, I’m still more than pleased with the season and looking forward to another successful campaign in ’09!

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  • Gene

    I agree with everything in your article with the exception of John Lackey’s observation that the Angels were the better team. Maybe they were better in the regular season, and maybe with the Red Sox injuries, they were better on paper. However, the better team won the series. The Angels were jittery in the field, to put it mildly. You mentioned the errors by Kendrick and Aybar. Figgins made a fine play on a one hopper and then made a miserable throw to second which, instead of starting a double play, resulted in no outs. The Alfonse and Gaston act in center field in game 3 was beneath a team that has always performed with good fundamentals. Reggie Willits showed poor judgment, along with good hustle, in diving for Jason Bay’s short fly ball down the right field line. The game would have been over right there if the ball hadn’t gone into the seats for a ground rule double. Teixeira and Vlad got on base many times, only to be left stranded by the lack of clutch hitting. Teixeira and Vlad got on base many times, only to be left stranded by the lack of clutch hitting.

    Remember, the Red Sox won despite some questionable moves by Terry Francona. Among them was the removal of Lester to start the 8th. Francona also left Masterson in for too long, just to name two blunders.

    The Angels had a great season and a great run of good seasons. The team has nothing to be ashamed of. However, John Lackey, you were beaten by a better team on the field. Give them credit publicly like a good sport and resolve to do better next year.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    I did read that Papelbon said he was only available for the 9th inning, so that’s probably why Francona didn’t bring him into the 8th with two outs. I’m still wondering why Masterson was left in to start the 9th, however.

  • Gene

    All the more reason to let Lester start the 8th inning. You are right about Masterson. Everyone who points out the Angel mistakes overlooks the fact that Masterson’s wild pitch in the 8th inning was the reason Tori Hunter could tie the score with only a single. Masterson moved the tying run into scoring position. Delcarmen should have started the ninth inning, to be sure.

  • http://obscuresportsquarterly.wordpress.com Gilbert

    Larry, you and I disagree often about baseball, and I’m with you on the squeeze.

    I was fine with the squeeze play, and when it became a 2-0 count, I was actually hoping they’d do it.

    The Angels were the better team over 162 games — anything can happen over 4.