Baltimore Orioles' Steve Pearce drives in the go-ahead run in the… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )
Mike Scioscia has long been recognized as one of the smartest men in baseball. But Saturday the Angels manager may have outsmarted himself when a couple of moves he made backfired in a 5-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
The first came hours before the first pitch when Scioscia benched the slumping Josh Hamilton, a good decision, and used backup catcher Hank Conger as the designated hitter, probably not such a good decision since it set in motion the events that led to the winning run.
By starting Conger and Chris Iannetta, Scioscia left open the possibility he would lose the DH if he took Iannetta out of the game, which he did when he rolled the dice and removed the catcher for pinch-hitter Scott Cousins in the eighth inning.
BOX SCORE: Baltimore 5, Angels 4
Even that looked good at first, though, when Cousins walked and scored the tying run on a Mike Trout single.
"You want to put it all on the line when you have a chance to," Scioscia said. "The move in the eighth inning was important."
The problem came two innings later when Scioscia was forced to make a double switch to avoid having reliever Garrett Richards bat. That meant replacing second baseman Howie Kendrick, his second-leading hitter, with Brendan Harris, who had played only three innings as a big league second baseman since 2009.
"I knew a ball was coming," Harris said. "You always anticipate when you go in it will find you."
He had to wait only two batters, with Adam Jones opening the 10th inning with a single before Nolan Reimold hit what looked to be an easy double-play ball to second base. But Harris' feed was wide of the bag, taking shortstop Erick Aybar out of position for the relay to first base.
"Jones is coming in hot so I was just trying to get him a little bit to the glove side so he could clear it and get the double play," Harris. "It was a little bit too much to the outside."
An out moved Reimold to second base before Steve Pearce drove him in with a go-ahead single to right field.
Quizzed on the moves, Scioscia didn't say he'd make them again. But he didn't say he wouldn't either.
"There's things you're presented with," he said. "You have your lineup to hopefully win a game in nine innings. I don't think you're worried about starting your lineup to protect for the 10th, 11th, 12th inning."
For most of the first nine innings it didn't looked as if that would be an issue with Baltimore's Freddy Garcia taking a 4-0 lead and a no-hitter into the seventh inning. But the Angels didn't quit, with a leadoff single by Aybar and a two-out home run by Mark Trumbo, his fifth in six games, cutting the lead in half. They tied the score an inning later on a bunt single from Conger, Cousins' walk, a run-scoring grounder and Trout's two-out single.
And that comeback, Conger said, made the loss even harder to take.
"It stings more," he said. "But knowing that we could come back … is a positive. We could have easily just rolled over. But we didn't quit fighting."