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When Two Wrongs Do Make a Right
2004-05-26 12:36
by Mike Carminati

Monday's game in Toronto ended with a walk-off, two-bone-headed play that would make Fred Merkle blush. The Angels left home uncovered and Chris Gomez escaped a rundown to score the winning run with two outs in the tenth on a very odd play.

The game was tied, 5-5, at the start of the home half of the tenth. Ben Weber relieved Scot Shields and promptly walked Gregg Zaun, the leadoff hitter, on seven pitches. Chris Gomez next grounded into a fielder's choice to short. Eric Hinske then walked on six pitches. Then Josh Phelps flied out to right.

So Chris Gomez was on second, Hinske at first and there were two outs. Next up was Simon Pond. On a 1-1 count. He hit a ball hard to the right side. First baseman Casey Kotchman dove and was able to knock it down. However, the ball dribbled past him for a single and was picked up by second baseman Adam Kennedy. He had no play, and it seemed as if the game would continue with the bases loaded and two out.

But then the oddness ensued. Gomez unwisely rounded third and headed for home. Apparently, he lost sight of the ball and thought that it went through to right field. Replays showed that he ran through third-base coach Brian "Don't call me Paul" Butterfield's hold sign. (How appropriate is that he coaches for the Blue Jays?) Gomez was about halfway to home when catcher Bengie Molina received a throw from Kennedy and started heading up the line. Gomez, of course, headed back to third and it seemed that the inning would end with Gomez being tagged out in a rundown.

Then the next oddity occurred. Inexplicably, when Gomez was about 20 feet away from Molina as well as from third baseman Alfredo Amezaga, Molina decided to toss the ball to Amezaga. When Gomez saw the throw, he instinctively headed for home and scored when no one was covering the plate to complete the rundown. (Remarkably, Pond was credited with an RBI on the play as well.)

So Gomez, who had made the first blunder in initially attempting to score on the play, ended up scoring the winning run because of an ill-advised throw by Molina. Molina should have realized that there would be no one to cover the plate given that the right side of the infield was busy retrieving the ball and Weber was busy covering the bag at first. I could see him trying to get Gomez at third given that he was so far from the catcher. However, he should only have made the throw if he was still able to cover Gomez's retreat towards home. Even so, the throw is inherently ill-advised: it forces the runner to run toward home as the winning run. That's kind of a bad thing.

If Molina had instead run Gomez back to third, the Angels would have been no worse off than before the play. They would still have a tie ballgame with two outs and the runner in scoring position. The only disadvantage would have been that the runner could score on a walk and given that Weber had already given up two walks in two-thirds of an inning, that was a real threat. However, had Gomez not strayed too far from third, that's what the situation would have been.

What Molina should have done was run Gomez back toward third. He could have gotten rid of the ball once he was sure that Gomez was contained at third. However, he instead got rid of the ball definitely way too quickly.

Also, on the replay I was surprised that Weber didn't make more of an effort to get into the play. One angle from the third-base dugout, showed Weber lingering at first after Kennedy threw home and jogged toward home as Molina threw to third. He reached home as Gomez scored. I guess his only excuse was that he couldn't imagine that Molina would actually get rid of the ball so quickly.

It seemed that Molina was the only man in the stadium who thought that throwing the ball was a wise move. Here's what Jeff DaVanon had to say about what he termed a "freak play":

"Everyone was screaming for Bengie to hold the ball but it was so loud. It was just odd."

Angel manager and former catcher Mike Scioscia put it simply, "Bengie got caught in-between and we lost the play." ESPN added that Scioscia "thought Molina should have stayed at home or chased Gomez all the way up to third."

As far as the RBI credited to Pond, all that I can figure is that he lucked out with a homer official scorer who bent the intent of the rules by exercising his own judgment. By my interpretation of the RBI rule, there's no way Pond should have received a RBI:



(a) Credit the batter with a run batted in for every run which reaches home base because of the batter's safe hit, sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly, infield out or fielder's choice…(d) Scorer's judgment must determine whether a run batted in shall be credited for a run which scores when a fielder holds the ball, or throws to a wrong base. Ordinarily, if the runner keeps going, credit a run batted in; if the runner stops and takes off again when he notices the misplay, credit the run as scored on a fielder's choice.

Whatever Gomez did between third and home, he did on his own, well, with help from Molina. All that Pond did was get him to third.

By the way, Jose Guillen was hit by a pitch for the sixth time this season and said the following during what ESPN called "a profanity-laced tirade":

"I don't know how many times I've been hit and there's been no retaliation. I'm giving everything I got every day, playing hurt, playing in pain, and trying to win some games, and we don't get no help from nobody."

Jarrod Washburn ignored the triple negative but was surprised by the content of Guillen's media message. He prudently said, "That's something between the hitters and the pitchers. That's something we'll discuss."

For the record, even though Toronto starter Justin Miller hit Guillen and two others, Angel starter John Lackey did get his licks in by hitting Blue Jay leader Carlos Delgado and was ejected along with manager Mike Scioscia for hitting Pond with two outs in the sixth. Besides even though Guillen's six HBPs tie him for the lead in the AL. Craig Biggio has 8 for the Astros to lead the majors in the category (doesn't he always?). And Cincinnati's Jason LaRue has 7 in 82 fewer plate appearances than Guillen. It's small wonder that Guillen is on his fifth team in four years.

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