What a game! I'm glad I recorded it. If the Sox somehow win the MLB championship this month, you can be sure that none of the games from the ALDS will be included in the DVD box set. That was a classic Fenway playoff game. It was brisk and scoreless for 4.5 innings, with great defensive plays and pitching by the Sox. Then it had almost accidental runs scored by the Sox in the bottom of the 5th, followed by more precise tying runs generated by the Angels in the top of the 8th.
Again, Hideki Okijima fooled no one. Terry Francona arguably left a reliever (Masterson) in the game too long to put the potential Angel go-ahead run on base (Willits). And the game had one of the most exciting and satisfying 9th innings I've seen in years. A small miracle saved the Sox in the top half of the inning, and some hard hitting to right field won the game as the clock struck 23:10.
And the surprise of the night? Terry Francona's bullpen management missteps were overshadowed by the enormously bad call in the 9th by Angels manager Mike Scioscia. I mean, what was that? A suicide squeeze play with one out and the game tied? With the infield in? With a guy on third and one out, the defense would expect a hit or a sacrifice fly. Was Scioscia trying to be coy by doing something that in retrospect was the riskiest way to bring the runner home?
Sure, a suicide squeeze is an option. But it requires the batter to make contact with the ball. The runner, Reggie Willits, did his part, taking-off the moment the ball left Manny Delcarmen's hand. But one of Scocia's better bunters, Erick Aybar, did not make contact. The Sox infield was in. They were ready. Jason Varitek immediately ran Reggie Willits down before he could retreat to 3rd base. Incredible!
For me, the amazing thing was that the pitiful TBS announcers were hoping for the suicide squeeze to happen, and the Sox appeared to expect it. The Sox still had to finish the game in the bottom of the 9th. But the middle of the Sox order shook Scott Shields. Jason Bay, Mark Kotsay, and Jed Lowrie all saw Shield's curveball and hit it hard to right. Bay and Lowrie scored hits, and that was the ballgame.
UPDATE: Anonymous, in the comments, adds:
In addition, the pitcher hadn't thrown a strike yet so you're bunting at a pitch out of the strike zone.. If you're going to squeeze, do a safety squeeze so the guy from third doesn't take off before the ball hits the ground.
That's what the Angels get for playing in the AL West...barely a step above AAA.
This was Little League 101 and Scocia blew it.
ALDS Game 4
Angels 2, Red Sox 3