When the Angels take batting practice on Wednesday evening, manager Mike Scioscia may want to take the bat out of Juan Rivera's hands and give his left fielder a glove. Given how badly Rivera misplayed Jeremy Hermida's would-be inning-ending flyout on Tuesday, it's obvious that he could benefit from shagging a few extra flies.
While letting a fly ball drop to allow three runs in a tie game in the eighth inning is a tough break for any club, it was especially backbreaking for the Halos on Tuesday. Despite the fact that Kevin Jepsen had roughly the same control as if he was throwing lefty, he and the Angels nearly escaped a bases-loaded, nobody out jam. Nearly. Jepsen tossed a fat 2-0 fastball to David Ortiz, but the slumping slugger grounded into as easy a 4-2-3 double play as you could ever see.
Adrian Beltre promptly walked on four pitches with first base open (Jepsen's third walk of the inning), opening the door for Hermida. The outfielder sent a fly into the night sky, and the Red Sox dugout and the 37,411 in attendance hoped and prayed that it would scrape the 37-foot wall in left. Midway through the ball's flight, however, everyone knew that it wouldn't make it.
Everyone except Rivera.
The left fielder took a bad route to the ball, but he still had an opportunity to make a play. Instead, he overran it, let it bounce on the warning track, allowed three runs to score and kept the Angels' losing streak alive at five games.
"I ran hard, I thought the ball was going to hit the wall," Rivera told The Los Angeles Times after the game. "I got real close, but I was too far toward the gap."
It was the second time since September that Rivera's play in left field cost the Angels a game in the standings. With less than three weeks to go in the 2009 season, the Angels held a one-run lead in the ninth inning. Brian Fuentes (and anyone who's ever watched baseball) thought he had struck out Nick Green three separate times — once on a check swing and twice on pitches in the zone.
The Mike Scioscia Face was in full effect, burned into television screens around New England. No matter, as Green eventually walked to bring in the tying run.
Though the lead was lost for the Angels, the game wasn't. Everyone knew that. Except for Juan Rivera.
In stepped Alex Gonzalez, who quickly fell behind Fuentes 1-2. Just trying to make contact, Gonzalez got under a pitch that looked to be heading to the dirt. It looked to have enough height for Rivera to charge and track down, but there was Rivera, stopping his sprint prematurely and deciding not to dive for the ball. J.D. Drew trotted across the plate for the winning run.
After that game, the Angels were quick to jump on the umpiring for costing them the game (which, given the location of Fuentes' pitches, was fair enough), yet it was the misplay of their left fielder that cost them the winning run.
For Scioscia, it's simply time to re-insert Hideki Matsui in left for the remaining two games of the series. Though he is 35, he got all of his Green Monster struggles out of the way years ago — playing nine times a year in Boston forces a player to learn quickly.
For Rivera, it's time shag some flies in BP. That wall's been there since 1912, and it isn't going away any time soon.
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