Mike Scioscia had his reasons for the four key decisions that didn’t go his way in the top of the eighth inning Monday night, but they’ll probably do little to appease those second-guessing the Angels manager during and after a 4-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Progressive Field.
Trailing by a run, Raul Ibanez opened the eighth with a walk off Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings to earn his first save.
Ibanez is 42, and while he isn’t Albert Pujols-slow, he’s no burner on the basepaths. Why not pinch-run the speedy Collin Cowgill?
Because Scioscia wanted to save the right-handed-hitting Cowgill, either to hit for Kole Calhoun if Cleveland summoned left-handers Marc Rzepczynski or Josh Outman, or to be available to play right field if he used C.J. Cron to pinch-hit.
Rzepczynski has held left-handers to a .135 average and Outman has held them to a .167 mark, but Outman did not warm up until the ninth, and Rzepczynski, who threw 21 pitches Friday and 24 on Saturday, never got up.
“When you have a guy like C.J. or Collin on the bench, guys who are really attacking lefties well, there might be a spot where you’re going to put them in,” Scioscia said. “We were holding [Cowgill] back, and we just didn’t get to that move.”
The next decision: Should Chris Iannetta, who hit a two-run double in the second inning and singled off the left-field wall in the fourth, bunt or swing away?
An old baseball adage says you play for the tie at home and the lead on the road, but that didn’t drive the decision to eschew the bunt as much as an overworked bullpen, which threw 11 2/3 innings in Atlanta over the weekend.
“Where our bullpen is, we didn’t have the length tonight,” Scioscia said. “You want to try to get a bigger inning. Obviously, it didn’t play out that way, but this was a night where we needed to press the action, get a lead and hold it.”
Scioscia pressed the action, all right, sending Ibanez, who has three stolen bases, on a 2-and-2 pitch to Iannetta, who struck out. Indians catcher George Kottaras nailed Ibanez on an extremely close play at second for a double play.
Scioscia said he ran Ibanez in hopes of staying out of a double play and opening a hole for Iannetta, who, with a single, would advance Ibanez to third. Even though Ibanez doesn’t have great speed, Scioscia thought Carrasco was slow enough to the plate and Kottaras was slow enough to second for Ibanez to beat the throw.
“We really felt good about the times being on our side, the pitcher’s time to the plate and the way we matched up with Kottaras,” Scioscia said. “You have to give him credit. He put the throw right on the money, and it was still too close to call.”
Which brings us to Scioscia’s final controversial move, or non-move — not using his instant-replay challenge. There were two outs in the eighth; what was he saving it for? If there was a potentially game-deciding play in the ninth, wouldn’t the umpires use their crew-chief review?
“From our angle, it looked like his foot was in there, but on the replay, we couldn’t verify it,” Scioscia said. “You never know how a game will play out, and you might need that challenge in the 11th inning. It’s not automatic after the seventh that a crew will look at a play.”
Calhoun struck out to end the eighth, and Mike Trout, Pujols and Josh Hamilton went down in order in the ninth.
The game was over. The questions were just beginning.