Angels Take Soft Approach to 4-3 Victory : Baseball: Suicide squeeze works to perfection, driving in one run and setting up the winner at Boston.
In the Angels’ playbook, where it gathered dust for months, the move they used Saturday for only the second time this season has a new description.
“It was kind of a half slap-bunt thing,” Dick Schofield said, as accurate in describing the suicide squeeze ordered by Manager Doug Rader as he was in executing it.
Knowing that Schofield--a .223 hitter--wasn’t likely to threaten the Green Monster in left field, Rader called for the squeeze play in the sixth inning with runners on second and third. Schofield pulled it off so well he drove in a run and was safe himself, keeping the inning alive for Brian Downing to drive in the decisive run in the Angels’ 4-3 victory over the staggering Red Sox Saturday at Fenway Park.
“Can you imagine? We’ve been here two days and nobody has hit the wall. Neither side,” said Rader, whose previous suicide squeeze call on April 29 at New York backfired, with catcher John Orton tagged out at home and injured in the attempt. “So, we had to change our tack.”
Tactically, it was the perfect solution.
“I’m not really swinging the bat well enough to hit the ball out of the park, and with a 2-0 lead, you need as many runs as you can get,” Schofield said. “As it happened, Boston got a couple the next inning.”
The Red Sox, who have lost three consecutive games and four of five, scored three times in the seventh inning to usher Kirk McCaskill (9-8) out of the 90-degree heat, but the Angels held on to win their fifth consecutive game and eighth in 10. Their longest winning streak since May 21-27 has lifted them into a tie with Seattle for fourth place in the AL West and to .500 for the first time since July 21, when they were 47-47.
McCaskill, who received his third cortisone injection of the season last Tuesday to ease pain in his right elbow caused by bone spurs, held Boston scoreless on two hits until the seventh inning, when he yielded singles to Mike Greenwell, Dwight Evans and Tom Brunansky. McCaskill left Evans and Brunansky for Willie Fraser, who gave up a single to Tony Pena and a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Rick Lancellotti before inducing Jody Reed to hit an inning-ending fly to left.
“Right now, I think everybody’s dragging a little bit. I know I am,” Reed said. “I’m confident we’ll be able to end this thing. We’re running into some tough pitching, too. With a guy like (McCaskill), there wasn’t much more we could do.”
Bob McClure was McCaskill’s comrade in aching arms, having been on the disabled list until last Tuesday because of tendinitis in his left elbow. Brought on in the eighth inning for the first time since last Sept. 29, McClure got two ground outs and a fly to the warning track in left. He was overjoyed at his performance.
“It was crunch time, coming in like that with a one-run lead in Fenway, and we were on a roll,” said McClure, who had a 1.55 earned-run average last season as the left-handed setup man. “You don’t want to do anything to get off that roll. . . . I don’t get emotional, but I was pretty excited about getting to pitch again.”
McCaskill learned to hide his emotions--particularly his pain--during his hockey-playing days.
“You talk to hockey players about having a bone spur or bone chip and they’d laugh,” said McCaskill, who spent one season with the Winnipeg Jets’ top farm club before switching to pitching. “It’s just a matter of two different games, different ways of thinking. . . . This was honestly the best I’ve felt in a long time. I know I don’t have an overpowering fastball, but I was able to throw my slider when I was behind in the count and I threw a couple of changeups.”
The Angels gave him a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning against Tom Bolton (7-2) on Lee Stevens’ RBI ground out. They padded that in the fifth on the first major league hit and RBI by Pete Coachman, who was recalled from triple-A Edmonton on Friday.
Schofield’s sixth-inning squeeze, which followed singles by Stevens and Hill, helped the Angels “sneak two (victories) in” at Fenway, as Schofield put it, besides making them anticipate the future instead of dreading it.
Said McClure: “It’s important to go out to the park every day and build for next year. Oakland is pretty tough to catch. We have to be realistic. In this case, we’re looking to next year and looking at things we do that are positive and going on from there.”
Donnie Hill strained his left hamstring slightly in the sixth inning while scoring the Angels’ fourth run and left the game early. He hoped to be able to play today.
Tom Brunansky’s RBI single in the seventh inning ended a string of 19 2/3 scoreless innings by Angel pitchers. It began after New York Yankee first baseman Kevin Maas’ bases-loaded walk against Mark Langston with two out in the fourth inning Wednesday and included Chuck Finley’s shutout Friday.
Some good did come of Bob McClure’s recovery from elbow problems. During his comeback, he added a forkball to his repertoire and used it to get Wade Boggs to ground to short in the eighth inning. “I paid a steep price, but I think that pitch will help me this year and next year,” McClure said.
Pete Coachman, who arrived in Boston Friday in time to see the last pitch of the Angels’ 1-0 victory on TV at Logan Airport, was glad to get his first major league hit early, in his third at-bat in the fifth inning. “After the hit, I settled down a whole lot,” he said. “Being here is just a dream.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.