CINCINNATI — Manager Mike Scioscia had the matchup he wanted. Reliever Scott Downs made the pitch he wanted. First baseman Albert Pujols got the ground ball he wanted.
For so much that seemed to go right for the Angels on the decisive play of Wednesday night's game, so much went wrong, the net effect a 5-4 walk-off loss to the Cincinnati Reds in Great American Ball Park.
With Shin-Soo Choo — who was hit by a Downs pitch to start the ninth — on second, one out and first base open, Scioscia had Downs, the veteran left-hander, pitch to one of baseball's most prolific sluggers, left-handed-hitting Joey Votto, the 2010 National League most valuable player.
BOX SCORE: Reds 5, Angels 4
Scioscia wanted Downs to go after Votto, walk Brandon Phillips — who bats right-handed — and let Downs face left-handed-hitting Jay Bruce. Neither Mark Lowe nor Ernesto Frieri, both right-handers, were warming up in the bullpen.
Downs threw Votto a first-pitch looping curve, down and away, "in the exact spot I needed him to hit it," Downs said. Votto hit a hard one-hopper to Pujols' right that Pujols lunged at and got his glove on, but the ball squirted into shallow right field for a single, and Choo scored.
"I should have made that play," Pujols said. "I was expecting the ball to come up, and it stayed down. I thought at least I would have knocked it down. It's a play I make eight out of 10 times."
Votto has a .321 career average against right-handers, but he's no slouch against lefties, with a .304 average against them. And Phillips crushed a three-run homer in the fourth.
"It's always in the back of your mind to walk Votto, but we thought the matchup was to get Votto, walk Phillips and pitch to Bruce," Scioscia said. "It's pick your poison."
The Angels were down 4-0 because starter C.J. Wilson's night went from a leisurely gondola ride on the Ohio River to a turbulent trek down Class 5 rapids within a span of 21 pitches in the fourth.
After retiring the first 10 batters, Wilson issued two walks, gave up that homer to Phillips, a double to Bruce and a run-scoring single to Todd Frazier.
"He just lost his release point," Scioscia said. "He got out of sync."
This was a common refrain last season, when opponents hit .203 with five homers and 16 runs the first time through the order against Wilson and .298 with nine homers and 46 runs in their second plate appearances against him.
"He has enough stuff to give guys different looks deep into games," Scioscia said. "He has to make his pitches."
The Angels battled back, Howie Kendrick crushing a 419-foot solo homer to center in the fifth and Alberto Callaspo hitting a two-run homer in the seventh to make it 4-3. But with two on, the inning ended with Mike Trout whiffing against J.J. Hoover, taking all three strikes.
Erick Aybar's single and Frazier's error on Pujols' potential double-play grounder to third set up the Angels' tying run, which Mark Trumbo knocked in with a groundout in the eighth.
The Angels were hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position, and Pujols and Josh Hamilton, the three-four hitters, are a combined 0 for 15 in two games.
"Those guys are going to hit in the middle of the order," Scioscia said. "Hopefully, they start to get comfortable in the box."