ANAHEIM, Calif. — In his playing days, Angels manager Mike Scioscia earned a reputation as a fearless catcher who never hesitated to block the plate when it was necessary, regardless of the risks.
Tagging out a base runner — and sometimes paying the price with a collision — is among the most exciting plays in baseball. But it no longer exists.
An experimental rule, known as 7.13 in the official rules of the game, currently prohibits a runner from changing his path to home plate to cause a collision or a catcher from blocking the plate unless he has possession of the ball. On Sunday afternoon, that rule helped the Angels sweep the Texas Rangers.
Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun raced from first base to home on an Albert Pujols single and an errant throw in the first inning, sliding into the plate but being tagged out by Rangers catcher Chris Gimenez.
It was the first run in a 5-2 Angels win, but it was full of controversy.
After Calhoun was tagged out, he went to the dugout and told Scioscia that he had no path to the plate, a violation of rule 7.13. Scioscia urged umpires to review the play, and when they did, they saw that Gimenez has indeed blocked the plate with his right leg.
It’s one of those rules that’s going to get a lot of scrutiny as times goes on.
-- Mike Scioscia
"There was nowhere to go," Calhoun said. "I was asking, ‘Is that where you run them over? What can you do right there with a new rule that just seems to be a little vague to everybody?’ So I just slid right into him and let (Scioscia) know when I came in that I had nowhere to slide."
Scioscia steers clear of offering an opinion on the rule, despite the fact he made his living as a big leaguer blocking the plate. But there’s little question the rule will be reviewed after this season and perhaps shelved.
But in this instance, it lifted the Angels to a first-inning lead that they never relinquished. More important, they swept the Rangers in a three-game series at Angel Stadium for the first time since April 2007 and beat starter Yu Darvish, who brought in a 7-1 career record against them.
"The rule is very clear the way it’s stated now," Scioscia said. "It just looked like there was no lane to slide. As a catcher, you have to have the responsibility to give the runner a lane before you have the ball in your possession. I think that was clearly the case.
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"It’s one of those rules that’s going to get a lot of scrutiny as times goes on."
There were other notable moments Sunday:
Starter Matt Shoemaker took a shutout into the sixth inning and gave up just one run in 7 2/3 innings. He is 5-0 as a starter, and the Angels are 7-1 in his starts.
This season, Shoemaker has faced opposing pitchers that have appeared in five All-Star Games and won two Cy Young Awards – Darvish, Cliff Lee, David Price, James Shields and Chris Sale — and is 4-0 with a 2.68 ERA.
"Those guys have done a lot for this game, and hopefully I can be in their shoes one day down the road," Shoemaker said. "It’s definitely something you want to savor."
Newly crowned designated hitter C.J. Cron homered for the third time in three games, becoming the first Angels rookie to go deep in three games of a series since Tim Salmon in 1993. Calhoun also homered, scored twice and threw out Elvis Andrus trying to turn a first-inning single into a double with a perfect throw to second.
The victory was the Angels’ fourth in five games and cut the Oakland A’s American League West lead to five games.