Bumbling Scioscia can't blow Game 5

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The ALCS victory was theirs for the taking even after an awful first inning, but the Yankees couldn’t reach out and grab it. Instead, the series will head back to New York for a Game 6 on Saturday. The end result came in spite of the efforts of one Mike Scioscia, the AL’s likely Manager of the Year for 2009.
Let’s run down the mistakes:
– He sat down his hottest hitter, Howie Kendrick, to go to Maicer Izturis, just as he had done during the regular season. Izturis did make one notable defensive play, snaring a grounder that had deflected off Kendry Morales’ glove, but he went 0-for-4 while batting sixth in the lineup. Kendrick is 4-for-11 with a homer and a triple in the series.
– In the seventh, he made the bizarre choice to let John Lackey face Johnny Damon with the bases loaded, only to pull him in favor of Darren Oliver once Damon was retired. Removing Lackey prior to Damon’s at-bat would have been defensible. Letting Lackey face Teixeira after retiring Damon would have been defensible. Instead, Scioscia went the one route that made no sense at all. It’s not like he even had history on his side, as Teixeira went 2-for-3 with a walk lifetime against Oliver. Teixeira delivered a three-run double, and Oliver never got an out in what ended up being a six-run inning.
– Scioscia twice played small-ball in bad situations. In the seventh, he had Chone Figgins put down a sacrifice with two on and none out, even though Figgins has grounded into a double play once every 91 plate appearances in his career. The Angels went on to score three times in the inning, and perhaps they would have broken the game open if not for giving up an out. In the eighth, the red-hot Jeff Mathis was asked to bunt against Joba Chamberlain with a man on second and two outs. He failed to get it down in two attempts and ended up striking out.
– Scioscia actually made a great call in the eighth, turning to probably Game 7 starter Jered Weaver in reliever. Weaver was dominant in retiring Melky Cabrera, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter on two strikeouts and a comebacker. Scioscia, though, couldn’t resist going to closer Brian Fuentes in the ninth. In the end, it worked out. Fuentes loaded the bases on two walks — one intentional — and a HBP, but he got out of it by retiring the ice-cold Nick Swisher to end the game.
So, now we’ll see a Game 6. Joe Saunders vs. Andy Pettitte. It means both teams will resume using their best lineups, with Jorge Posada catching for New York and Kendrick playing second for the Angels. The only thing in doubt is whether Mathis or Mike Napoli will catch. Napoli caught Saunders in Game 2, but Mathis is too hot to be benched now.

A-Rod to join ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth

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Alex Rodriguez’s post-retirement renaissance continues apace. After starring as a studio host for Fox’s playoff coverage over the past couple of years, A-Rod is about to be named to, arguably, televised baseball’s top job: color commentary in ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth.

Michael McCarthy of The Sporting News is hearing that ESPN is going to give the gig, vacated by Aaron Boone by virtue of his hiring by the Yankees, to Rodriguez. There he’ll join Jessica Mendoza and whoever they get to replace play-by-play man Dan Shulman, who chose to step back from the Sunday night job following last season. This, by the way, marks the second time A-Rod has taken over Aaron Boone’s job given that he replaced Boone at third base for the Yankees in 2004.

The twist: A-Rod is likely to keep his Fox postseason job too. While some broadcasters work for multiple networks, it’s pretty rare for Fox to allow its talents to work for competitors like that. Apparently they believe keeping A-Rod — who five years ago was one of the most despised figures in baseball — is worth it. What a difference a few years makes.

In other news, Alex Rodriguez is likely to be shunned mightily by the current crop of BBWAA voters when he hits the Hall of Fame ballot in a couple of years. At the rate he’s going, though, their successors will put him in Cooperstown via the Ford Frick Award sometime in the 2040s.