Gaffe prolongs Vlad's October woes
Aggressive baserunning decision deflates late Angels rally
ANAHEIM -- After it was over, Vladimir Guerrero sat in a chair in the middle of the Angels' clubhouse with two big ice packs on his knees.He was alone in his thoughts. All he had with him was a beeper to tell him when the ice packs had been on long enough. Across the way, reporters were surrounding losing pitcher John Lackey, who was explaining what happened on Jason Bay's two-run home run. "It was a bad pitch," Lackey said, as Guerrero got up out of his chair and quietly hobbled off to the training room to get his ice packs removed. It was another tough playoff game for Guerrero. He was 2-for-4 on Wednesday with two singles, but the veteran slugger is still only a career .203 hitter with just one extra-base hit in the postseason. That was a home run that came four years ago. Still, it was not Guerrero's bat but his baserunning that came into question in the Angels' 4-1 loss to the Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. Guerrero's miscalculation was clearly the biggest play of the game, and it came after he singled with one out in the eighth inning, the Angels trailing, 2-1. Guerrero, who has to deal with bad knees on a daily basis and has for a long time, tried to go from first base to third on Torii Hunter's weak popup that fell just beyond first baseman Kevin Youkilis' reach in short right field. But Youkilis reacted quickly and threw out Guerrero at third. Instead of having two on with one out, the Angels were left with Hunter on first with two outs, and Howie Kendrick grounded out against reliever Justin Masterson to end the inning. "I saw the ball drop," Guerrero said through a translator afterward. "I thought it was further out. I tried to make it to third base and couldn't do it." Guerrero apparently didn't see third-base coach Dino Ebel telling him to hold up. "I didn't have a chance to look at the third-base coach," Guerrero said. "If I had, I would have stopped." It would seem surprising that Guerrero would risk such a play with his bad knees, but his teammates came to his defense. "We've been aggressive all year," outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. said. "That's our ballclub. Sometimes you're going to make it, sometimes you're not. That's just how it goes."
"He was playing the game," said Kendrick. "He thought he had a chance to go to third base. You can't fault him for being aggressive. Who's to say we all wouldn't have tried it and gotten thrown out? We play an aggressive style of baseball. Your instincts kick in."Angels manager Mike Scioscia pointed out that Youkilis deserved some credit for reacting quickly after missing out on a diving catch while running away from home plate. "He maintained his composure, got the hop and made a good throw to third base," Scioscia said. "You never know what that inning is going to become, but you know Vlad is aggressive. It was a tough read, and it was behind him and a little further out than it was." Guerrero walked back to the Angels' dugout and slammed his helmet on the bench in frustration. "I was very upset with myself," Guerrero said. "Nobody else." It was a tough night for Guerrero and the Angels' offense. The Halos had nine hits, but they were all singles. The Nos. 2-5 hitters in the lineup were 8-for-15, but Chone Figgins was 0-for-5 in the leadoff spot and Kendrick was 0-for-4 batting sixth. The Angels were also 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Guerrero had two hits but was hitless in his only at-bat with runners in scoring position. He came up with two runners on and one out in the first inning, swung at the first pitch and flied out to right. He is now just 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position in his career during the postseason. "It's only one game," Guerrero said. "We can't worry about one game. If we come out Friday and do things we've done in the regular season, we'll be fine. I'm going to keep my head up and come out ready for the second game."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.