LOS ANGELES — The easy thing would have been to blame everything on an umpire’s blown call.
If the Angels get the call they need, the eighth inning is over and a one-run lead is preserved. Andre Ethier doesn’t come to the plate. Juan Rivera doesn’t come to the plate. The inning ends.
But that’s why baseball is such an interesting — and confounding — game. One play often separates a win from a loss.
In this case, it was a stolen base by the Dodgers’ Dee Gordon in the eighth. Everything that happened after Gordon was called safe by second-base umpire Joe West swung in the Dodgers’ favor.
Now, the Freeway Series between the Angels and Dodgers is even at one game apiece. But a 5-2 victory by the Dodgers on Tuesday night just didn’t feel right in the Angels clubhouse.
“We’re not going to hang our hat on one call that was blown,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’re not going to hang our hat on that. We should’ve been better.”
To prove it, he noted that his team was 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. The Angels left the bases loaded in the third and sixth innings, and they stranded four runners at third base.
The loss ended a 10-game road winning streak, one short of the franchise record. It also dropped the Angels 3½ games behind Texas in the American League West after the Rangers defeated Arizona 9-1.
For almost eight innings, the Angels believed they were on their way to another win. Starter Jerome Williams took a 2-1 lead into the eighth after throwing just 79 pitches through seven innings.
“I was commanding the zone, throwing the ball down, getting outs when I needed to get outs,” he said.
But then he walked Elian Herrera with one out in the eighth. Herrera was erased when Gordon bounced into a fielder’s choice, and all looked well for the Angels.
With A.J. Ellis at the plate, Gordon attempted his third steal of the night with a head-first dive into the bag. A TV replay showed it was a close play, but Gordon was called safe by West. Frankly, it could have gone either way.
“I felt like I made a good throw there,” Angels catcher Hank Conger said.
Then things got bad. Williams walked Ellis, bringing up the lefty-handed-hitting Ethier.
The expected move would have been to bring in left-hander Scott Downs, but Scioscia said Downs was experiencing stiffness in his left side from pitching in Colorado. And the team’s other lefty, Hisanori Takahashi, worked 1 2/3 innings Monday night and wasn’t available.
So Williams was left out there to get the last out. But Ethier singled to right to tie the game, and Juan Rivera homered to left on the first pitch for three more runs.
Two pitches turned Williams’ night from exceptional to forgettable.
“It was up in the zone, flat,” Williams said of the cutter he threw to Rivera. “He put good wood on it.”
Scioscia seemed quietly perturbed at the safe call on Gordon, but he clearly didn’t want to criticize West too strenuously at the risk of facing a fine.
“It’s obviously a big call to get out of the inning, but we had a lot of chances,” Scioscia said. “You can’t hang winning or losing if an umpire misses a call. You have to play at a high level and we just didn’t get it done.”