ARLINGTON — Angels manager Joe Maddon has long been known for being unconventional throughout his 19-year career as a Major League manager.
But he took it to the extreme on Friday, opting to intentionally step on Texas slugger Corey Seager with the bases loaded and a fourth-inning outing to drive home a run after the Rangers were already ahead.
Maddon called on right-hander Austin Warren to intentionally step on the left-handed Seager to get to right-handed hitters Mitch Garver and Adolis García. The Rangers then scored three points, but the Angels came back in an eventual 9-6 win.
“I thought walking Seager would avoid the big hit,” Maddon said. “And just to stir up the group, quite frankly. It’s not something you normally do. I thought by going up there and doing something like that, the team might react to something like that.”
Seager appeared confused by the decision, as did Angels superstar Mike Trout when the television cameras turned on him in center field. Warren also said he was surprised by the decision, but trusted his manager.
“Absolutely, it surprised me, but I’m not going to say no to Joe Maddon,” Warren said. “I trust Maddon a lot and it worked out.”
Seager entered the night with a career hitting .305/.380/.520 against right-handers, which played into Maddon’s decision. But Warren had actually held left-handers to a career .461 OPS compared to a .614 OPS against right-handers. Garver also doesn’t have huge gaps – he had a career .821 OPS against right-handers and an .863 OPS against left-handers – while García had reverse gaps in his career with a .756 OPS against right-handers and a .662 OPS against left-handers.
The move backfired, as Garver hit a deep drive to right center field for a sacrifice fly, while Warren faltered with García at home plate to drive home another run. He capped a five-run inning that gave Texas the lead.
“I’ve seen it done to the best hitter of the game in Barry Bonds,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “It’s obviously a compliment to Seager, how good he is. Who knows, maybe it’s a grand slam or maybe a double game? But that wasn’t the reason they won. They didn’t come out of it because of that. And because of that, we ended up scoring some points.
It was only the third time a batter had been intentionally walked with the bases loaded since 1950: Josh Hamilton also received a free pass with the bases loaded in 2008, as did Barry Bonds in 1998. It was also the eighth time on record this has happened. Others who put him through are Bill Nicholson in 1944, Mel Ott in 1929, Del Bissonette in 1928, Nap Lajoie in 1901, and Abner Dalrymple in 1881.
Maddon was the opposing manager when he elected to intentionally walk Hamilton with the bases loaded on August 17, 2008. But that was a much different situation, as the then Maddon-led Rays led Rangers by four runs with two outs in the ninth when Hamilton received the free pass. Tampa Bay took the win with Marlon Byrd on strikes to end the game.
Bonds was also intentionally walked in the ninth inning of an 8-7 loss to the D-backs on May 28, 1998. That walk also came with two outs in the ninth, before Brent Mayne lined up on right field to end the game.
Maddon got a reprieve, however, when the Angels came back with five runs alone in the fifth inning, scored by a solo homer from Kurt Suzuki and a two-run shot from Shohei Ohtani for his second homer of the game. Jared Walsh tied the game with an RBI single and scored the go-ahead on a sacrifice fly from Brandon Marsh. Walsh gave the Halos two more insurance runs with a two-run outburst in the seventh.
“Whatever he did, it triggered us,” Warren said. “Because we got five runs the next round. So it all worked out.”
Rangers, on the other hand, would not score again after their fourth inning five run. Woodward pointed to the lack of execution on the pitching side as the reason for the loss, not the intentional walk.
“I think everyone was [surprised]”Woodward said. “I don’t think anyone expected that, you know, [up] 3-2 at the time. I don’t really have a comment on that anyway. I was actually happy because Mitch Garver can punch now. I mean, he just missed a Grand Slam. I mean, you could look at it in hindsight and say it worked. It did not work. We didn’t run after that. We had a 6-2 lead. We should win.