When one does something as complex as managing a professional baseball team, one may find comfort in routine.
Such was the case when the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Scioscia removed starter Zack Greinke from Saturday’s game with a 2-0 lead over the Kansas City Royals in the bottom of the ninth inning. Greinke gave up a bloop single after earning the first out, and Scioscia had seen enough. It was a very Scioscia-like move; he tends to pull the trigger when a starter looks lackluster late. But it looked like Greinke was primed to finish a complete-game shutout.
Conservative as it was, it seemed at least like Scioscia knew what he was doing. But inexplicably, Scioscia sent Ernesto Frieri to the mound. Frieri, who threw 30 pitches the night before, took over with a man on and Billy Butler at the plate.
Four pitches later, the Royals walked off. The Angels were left in shock, and fans were left to smolder.
Greinke cruised all night. He looked well on his way to a complete-game shutout. The hit he allowed was a little flare off the end of the bat. Was that really enough damage to take Greinke out of the game?
Frieri is a closer. It’s his job to finish games. But the circumstances this time around were exceptional.
On the previous night, Frieri looked shaky, throwing 30 pitches before finally closing out the Angels’ 9-7 victory over the very same Royals. With the previous night’s work behind him, it seemed insane to play Frieri.
Of course, this loss will sting for a while, and fans will talk about it for a while. This move, along with other decisions Scioscia has made this season, raises the question of whether Scioscia is actually a detriment to his talented roster.
But this discussion will have to wait. Whether or not Greinke would have finished the game or someone else in the bullpen could have won the game is already a moot point. Disappointing result aside, the Angels will have to do what they’ve done all season–move on.
The Angels are only 2.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the race for the final Wild Card spot. The panic button is in view, but still distant as the end of the season looms.