Op­por­tu­nity goes awry on the road

In­stead of swing­ing away, he fails to get the ball down and An­gels miss big scor­ing chance in one-run loss.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike DiGiovanna

An­gels have a chance to tie the score, but then comes a popup.

PHOENIX — It was a clas­sic case of a strug­gling player try­ing to do too much, of per­haps over­think­ing a sit­u­a­tion, and the re­sult was a huge missed op­por­tu­nity in a game filled with them for the An­gels, who lost to the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs, 3-2, in Chase Field on Wed­nes­day night.

The An­gels were down by a run in the top of the sev­enth in­ning when Chris Ian­netta led off with a sin­gle to cen­ter field and pinch-hitter Efren Navarro hit a ground-rule dou­ble to right-cen­ter off re­liever David Her­nan­dez.

Up stepped lead­off man Erick Ay­bar, who was mired in a one­for-26 slump that in­cluded sev­eral failed bunt at­tempts. The Di­a­mond­backs played their in­field back, con­ced­ing a run.

A grounder to the right side would have scored the ty­ing run and moved the po­ten­tial go-ahead run to third with one out and the heart of the An­gels or­der — Kole Cal­houn, Mike Trout and Al­bert Pu­jols — com­ing up.

Ay­bar, scratch­ing and claw­ing for hits, at­tempted to drag a bunt to the right side on Her­nan­dez’s first pitch. But Her­nan­dez threw a nasty break­ing ball that forced Ay­bar to change his bat an­gle, and Ay­bar popped out to the pitcher.

“The pitch was right there,” said Ay­bar, a switch-hitter whose av­er­age has dropped from .271 on June 10 to .246. “I messed up. I tried to do my job and popped it up. That’s base­ball. It hap­pens.”

Would Man­ager Mike Scios­cia have pre­ferred Ay­bar swing away in that sit­u­a­tion?

“Hind­sight is 20-20,” Scios­cia said. “He’s on his own. Erick usu­ally has a great feel for that, and un­for­tu­nately, he popped it up. It’s easy to say now that he should have swung away, but he’s one of the best bun­ters in the league, and he just got un­der one. If he gets that bunt down, there’s no doubt he has a chance for a hit. At the very least, he has a chance to get a run­ner over and get a run­ner in.”

The An­gels still had an ex­cel­lent chance to tie the score af­ter Ay­bar’s bunt at­tempt, but Cal­houn, who sin­gled twice in his first four at-bats, flied to shal­low cen­ter field off left-han­der Oliver Perez, Ian­netta hold­ing at third.

That left Ari­zona Man­ager Chip Hale with a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion: Should he pitch to Trout, who dou­bled in the sixth and was bat­ting .368 (14 for 38) in his last 10 games and had seven homers in his last 16 games?

Or should he walk Trout in­ten­tion­ally to load the bases for one of base­ball’s hottest hit­ters, Pu­jols, who hit .368 (25 for 68) with 11 homers and 19 runs bat­ted in his pre­vi­ous 18 games?

Hale sum­moned right-han­der Daniel Hud­son and in­structed him to go af­ter Trout.

“When I brought Hud­son in, I ba­si­cally told him, ‘You’ve got a base open. I told [catcher Wel­ing­ton] Castillo, pitch your nas­ti­est stuff to this guy,’ ” Hale said. “If it doesn’t work out, the next guy is pretty darn good, too, and maybe hot­ter right now. I think they felt like they wanted to go af­ter Trout.”

It was the right call. Trout grounded out to third to end the in­ning, one of many frus­trat­ing at­bats for the An­gels, who banged out 11 hits but went 0 for 9 with run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion.

“The of­fense did a lot of good things,” Scios­cia said. “The one bump in the road tonight was hit­ting with run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion. We scored a cou­ple of runs with outs. We pres­sured them a lot. We just couldn’t get ei­ther the hit or con­tact that we needed at the right time to get a run across.”

The Ay­bar bunt was prob­a­bly the piv­otal play in the game, but Scios­cia re­fused to pin the blame for the loss on his vet­eran short­stop.

“This game isn’t on one player or one sit­u­a­tion,” Scios­cia said. “We had nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties — that’s the frus­trat­ing part. I thought we did a lot on the of­fen­sive side. We just couldn’t push over the run or two we needed.” mike.digiovanna@latimes.com Twit­ter: @MikeDi­Gio­vanna

Rob Schu­macher As­so­ci­ated Press


Chris Owings lands on Johnny Gi­avotella of the An­gels as he com­pletes a dou­ble play in the fifth in­ning.

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