BOSTON — Embarrassment was the emotion of the day for the Angels in their 8-4 loss to Boston Sunday, and the red faces flushed their reddest in the sixth inning, when Red Sox second baseman Marty Barrett hood-winked the Angels with a hidden-ball play for the second time in two weeks.
In an instant, an entire afternoon's worth of baseball--not fundamentally sound baseball, just baseball--was summarized for the Angels. A mental lapse, a mistake . . . and another scoring opportunity was thrown away--just as the Angels had done time and again in front of a Fenway Park crowd of 28,636.
With his team trying to scramble back from deficits of 4-0 and 6-2, Angel third baseman Doug DeCinces hit a one-out double off the left-field wall and catcher Bob Boone followed with a walk. The Angels had something going.
But after Dick Schofield had flied out, bringing Rod Carew to the plate, DeCinces wandered off second base to assume his normal lead. There, he waited for Boston starter Al Nipper to make his first pitch to Carew.
Nipper was dawdling on the back slope of the mound, showing no signs of readying for his delivery to Carew.
There was a good reason for that. Nipper didn't have the ball.
Barrett had it tucked away in the pocket of his glove, warily eyeing the unsuspecting DeCinces before flicking to shortstop Glenn Hoffman, who snuck in behind a sliding DeCinces to make the tag.
End of inning, end of scoring chance. And, continuation of a long afternoon for the Angels, who were unable to capitalize on Oakland's 11-4 loss to Toronto.
Thus, the Angels' first-place lead in the American League remained at six games.
On this balmy Massachusetts afternoon, the Angels were unable to do a lot of things. Little things, such as:
--Touch second base on a routine force play. Boston's Wade Boggs was on first base in the first inning when Jim Rice hit a bouncer back to pitcher Urbano Lugo. Lugo turned and threw to shortstop Schofield, who straddled second base but never made contact with it. Boggs barreled Schofield over with his slide, umpire Nick Bremigan ruled Boggs safe and the Red Sox had the bases loaded with no outs--en route to a four-run inning.
--Score two runs on a two-run double. In the second inning, with DeCinces on second base and Boone on first, Schofield hit a double high off the Green Monster in left. DeCinces scored, but third-base coach Moose Stubing held Boone at third--even though left fielder Rice's relay was headed into second. Thus, Schofield, who needs the numbers, was deprived of an RBI.
--Drive home runners in scoring position. The Angels stranded a total of 11 runners, five in scoring position. Carew accounted for three of the five, including two in the second inning after Schofield's double, when he struck out with one out. As a fitting conclusion, the Angels ended the ninth inning with the bases loaded.
--Lay down a sacrifice bunt. With no outs, DeCinces at second and Boone at first, Schofield nearly bunted into a double play in the fourth. Boone was forced at third on the play and Schofield had to hustle down the line to barely beat Boggs' throw to first.
"We started off kind of bad and we got worse as we got along," Angel Manager Gene Mauch said. "By the time we started playing baseball, there wasn't enough of the game left."
All but lost in the Angels' confusion was the continuation of Boggs' hitting streak--he doubled in the sixth to hit safely in his 24th straight game--and Reggie Jackson's 519th career home run. The solo shot, his 16th of the year, enabled Jackson to move past Tris Speaker into 19th place on the all-time RBI list at 1,563.
That became buried in a sea of Angel blunders, the most striking of which came courtesy of Barrett.
A hidden-ball trick can be a source of immense humiliation if done once to a team in the course of a season.
But when done twice, in the same month, by the same player, it can set a ballclub in the mood to pull the hidden-team trick.
Two Sundays ago in Anaheim, Barrett introduced the stunt to the Angels by creeping up behind Bobby Grich for a surprise tag. Fourteen days later, Barrett came up with a pop quiz--and the Angels demonstrated that they hadn't yet learned their lesson.
"That's twice in one season," Boston Manager John McNamara said. "Sometimes, you don't see it twice in one career. And, both times we did it to them."
The play surprised all of the principals, including the perpetrator.
"I'm surprised (it worked), because Gene Mauch is a real good baseball man," Barrett said. "(But) it could happen to our team, it could happen to me. As long as guys keep getting off base, it's going to work."
Mauch: "I didn't know who had the ball. Rodney was at bat and I was concentrating on him. . . . It wasn't a hidden-ball trick, per se. I don't know what you call it. He (DeCinces) got picked off second, but not in the usual manner."
McNamara: "I didn't even see it, until I wondered what the hell Nipper was doing out there."