Wild Koch dooms Sox

Trips and VacationsCrimeCrime, Law and JusticeTravelOzzie GuillenJoe CredeBasketball

It's only three months into Ozzie Guillen's first season as a manager, but he already has bought into the prevailing thinking of big-league managers--you pitch your closer in the ninth inning of save situations no matter what.

It doesn't matter if the closer is a human thrill ride or if the pitchers already in the game are effective.

You pitch your closer in the ninth inning because if you don't and fail, you're second-guessed.

If the closer fails, well, managers say, you have to stick with the closer.

While he may keep his "closer-mentality" theory, Guillen may be changing his mind on just who his closer is after Sunday's 5-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

Billy Koch failed to protect a two-run lead in the ninth inning as the Sox closed this West Coast trip 1-4.

"It's embarrassing," Koch said after allowing three runs, three hits, three walks and four stolen bases in the Seattle ninth.

"We should have been 3-2 on this trip if it wasn't for me. I let down 24 guys in this room, the coaching staff and the fans of Chicago."

Sunday was the second blown save of the trip for Koch as the Sox lost three times in the home team's final at-bat.

Guillen has been steadfast in his support of Koch as his closer but indicated that might change.

"Right now, it's too early for me [to think about changes]," Guillen said. "I might change my mind tomorrow or the next day."

Considering the way Shingo Takatsu has pitched, Guillen could do worse than call on the veteran closer from the Japan League.

Takatsu pitched another perfect inning Sunday in the eighth to run his streak to 13 consecutive batters retired, and has been perhaps the Sox's most consistent reliever.

Guillen has said he doesn't mind Koch getting beaten by giving up hits, but he can't stand the walks.

"The walks are going to kill you," Guillen said.

The winning run scored when Koch walked Jolbert Cabrera with the bases loaded to force in Willie Bloomquist. It was just the second walk Cabrera received this season.

The loss, coupled with Minnesota's win, left the Sox with a one-game lead in the AL Central Division.

Normally, it's the leadoff man who starts the trouble against Koch, but he got Hiram Bocachica to ground out to shortstop to start the ninth.

But Ichiro Suzuki singled and immediately stole second. Randy Winn then doubled in Ichiro--with his fourth hit of the game--to make it 4-3 and, more importantly, put the tying run on second.

Winn then stole third as Koch walked John Olerud to put the winning run on first. Bloomquist ran for Olerud and went to second, with Winn scoring the tying run, on Bret Boone's single.

Bloomquist and Boone then pulled off a double steal to put runners on second and third, forcing Koch to walk Edgar Martinez intentionally to load the bases for Cabrera.

"I was ridiculously slow to the plate," Koch said. "I didn't give [catcher Sandy Alomar Jr.] a chance."

The meltdown cost Esteban Loaiza his seventh victory of the season.

Loaiza didn't complete seven innings for the first time since May 4, leaving after Winn's home run cut the Sox lead to 3-2 in the seventh. The Sox added what should have been just an insurance run in the eighth.

"Sometimes these games cost you at the end of the season," Loaiza said. "It's a bad loss for us. We should have won this game."

The Sox had a 3-0 lead on Seattle starter Jamie Moyer with a run in the third and two in the fourth.

They could have blown the game open in the fourth but had to settle for just two runs on Joe Crede's RBI double and an RBI single by Miguel Olivo. The Sox had runners on second and third with one out, but Moyer struck out Willie Harris. After Frank Thomas walked, Carlos Lee struck out to end the threat.

The missed opportunity came back to haunt the Sox.

"We finished the road trip the way we started," Guillen said. "Horrible."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading