BOSTON -- Manager Mike Scioscia's decision to try a suicide squeeze play in the ninth inning of the Angels' 3-2 American League division series-clinching loss to the Boston Red Sox on Monday night evoked some strong criticism and second-guessing among fans.
The Angels had rallied on Torii Hunter's two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning to tie the score, 2-2, and pinch-hitter Kendry Morales led off the top of the ninth with a double to left-center field.
Howie Kendrick bunted pinch-runner Reggie Willits to third base, and reliever Manny Delcarmen's first two pitches to Erick Aybar, who won Game 3 with a 12th-inning single, were up and in, a possible indication the Red Sox were anticipating a squeeze.
Willits broke for home on the 2-and-0 pitch, a knee-high fastball that was slightly inside. Aybar, who led the team with nine sacrifice bunts, whiffed on his bunt try.
Catcher Jason Varitek chased Willits back to third, tagging him just before the bag, and though the ball squirted out of Varitek's glove as he hit the ground, umpires ruled that Willits was out.
Aybar grounded out to end the inning, and the Red Sox won it in the bottom of the inning on Jed Lowrie's walk-off single.
"With a 2-0 count, I felt he had to get a ball around the plate," Scioscia said. "Erick is one of the best bunters we have, and it didn't work out."
Here is a sampling of reader reaction:
-- Mike DiGiovanna
How wonderful to have won 100 games this year. The best team lost in the best-of-five series, which should have been best of seven.
Mike Scioscia made a decision in the ninth, which would have made him a hero or a goat. This time it turned out to be a baaad decision. With a man on third and one out, a tag up on a fly ball is so much less risky, why try a squeeze play with the season on the line?
The other thing not to be overlooked is the blown save by Francisco Rodriguez. Sure he saved 62 games, but it's the blown ones that seem to matter most.
Even with this "sour grapes" letter, I am still hoping we retain Mark Teixeira. He is worth the $20 million, let K-Rod go and pay Mark!
Mike Scioscia's call for a suicide squeeze on a 2-and-0 count, with the Boston reliever losing control of the strike zone (on the verge of giving Aybar a 3-and-0 count), was one of the worst managerial decisions in postseason history.
His comments afterward were a bit too simplistic, "It didn't work out," that would be the understatement of the year! Say it like it is, "It was a bad decision on my part, and it probably cost us the chance to win the series."
First of all, I want to say I love Mike Scioscia. But right now I am so mad at him I want to spit!
The squeeze play was a bad idea! Why?
Because Erick Aybar is a contact hitter. He got the game winner the night before.
I can see this in the regular season but when the season is on the line? I don't think so.
All Aybar had to do is hit to the right side (which he did) and Willits scores. No problem.
Then we have Frankie in. Piece of cake, but a squeeze!?!? The whole world was expecting a squeeze! What a terrible way to end a wonderful season!
What was Mike Scioscia thinking?
One out, the go-ahead run on third and the infield drawn up. A ground ball through a drawn-in infield or a fly ball scores the run.
Squeeze play with a left-handed batter at the plate?
Mike, you're a better manager than that.
Another year, another disappointing ending to the Angels' season.
It's time to delve deep into what the problems are with this team when it hits the playoffs.
First off, watching Mike Scioscia call for a squeeze play in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the division series when you are down two games to one is one of the oddest things I have ever seen.
When you have a man on third base and one out with a left-handed batter at the plate you have a much better chance of bringing that man home with the right kind of out without using trickery.
So what happens?
The batter misses the bunt, the man on third is hung out to dry and the season ends for the Angels.
It's also time to say goodbye to Mickey Hatcher as hitting coach. All you have to do is watch Boston take pitch after pitch to work the count to understand that the Angels have no plate discipline, which makes things so much easier for the opposing pitcher.
Mike Scioscia is becoming the Bobby Cox of the American League, making his Angels the Atlanta Braves. Lots of division titles but nothing to show for them.
That's it. The stomach-wrenching end to another Angels playoff series in which the Angels had all the ingredients for success.
I might be the only one with the audacity to say this, but the reason for the Angels' failure in this playoff series falls squarely in the sizable lap of Mike Scioscia.
His unnecessarily risky decisions will go down in the annals of baseball ignominy.