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Angels point plenty of fingers

They blame umpires, mystique, themselves

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / September 17, 2009

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The Los Angeles Angels walked off the field an angry team last night, mad primarily at the umpires and also, in some corners of the clubhouse, at each other.

In the manager’s office, Mike Scioscia was asked about Nick Green’s game-tying walk and quipped, “What was the count at the end, 3-4 to Green?’’

Along one row of lockers, closer Brian Fuentes suggested umpires can be swayed by the crowd and mystique of Fenway Park, and that players on his team and across the league share the sentiment. “You hear it time and time again,’’ Fuentes said.

In front of another bank of lockers, center fielder Torii Hunter worried that his teammates had fumbled through another in a line of mistake-filled games because a high-profile opponent changed their approach. “Play every team the same way,’’ Hunter said. “Show some [guts].’’

For the Angels, frustration defined last night’s 9-8 loss to the Red Sox, the team that has knocked them out of the playoffs three of the past five seasons, the team they will likely meet again in the American League Division Series next month. The Angels felt they had been cheated, but they also felt, as Hunter said, “we need to do better. We got to play better.’’

Most of their ire stemmed from the second-to-last at-bat of the game. With the bases loaded and two outs, and clinging to an 8-7 lead, Fuentes began Green with an 0-2 count, blowing two fastballs by him. He tried another fastball, and Green checked his swing. The Angels thought they had won until first base umpire Jeff Kellogg, on an appeal, ruled no swing.

The pitch that most irked the Angels came later. Fuentes had run the count full and threw a fastball at Green’s knees. Replays would determine the pitch was a strike. Rick Reed called it a ball, and Green walked to first - and Joey Gathright walked home. Scioscia stared at Reed in disbelief and shouted, and he had barely calmed when the game ended.

“I thought we had him a couple times,’’ Scioscia said. “I was surprised. It’s a good umpiring crew, and I think we really feel strongly they missed a couple times we had Green struck out. Unfortunately, that was the focal point of the game and it didn’t go our way.’’

Scioscia was asked if he needed a replay.

“Didn’t need a replay.’’

But had he watched it, anyway?

“Did. Not. Need. A replay.’’

Fuentes fumed afterward that he had an idea why the call went Boston’s way.

“It seems like some times, especially here and some other places, some guys are timid to make a call,’’ Fuentes said. “It just seems like that’s the way it is at Fenway. You hear it time and time again from other guys. The same thing happens when they come through. It’s something you have to live with. It’s either human mistake, or they’re scared. It’s one of the two.’’

Fuentes watched the replay, and he was certain he had Green struck out.

“He missed the call,’’ Fuentes said. “He’s going to see it and realize he missed two calls that inning. Unfortunately, it cost us the ballgame. It was frustrating. We’re out there pouring our hearts out. Both teams. To have it taken away from you like that, it’s discouraging.’’

The visiting team walks off the field in the same tunnel as the umpires. When catcher Mike Napoli asked Reed where ball four to Green was, according to Fuentes, Reed ignored him and said nothing.

“It’s an emotional time,’’ Scioscia said. “You’ve got to respect their space and that’s what we were doing. Our guys are upset, no doubt about it.’’

Hunter gave himself “a gag order’’ on speaking about the calls that decided the game, but he had no problem challenging his teammates. Hunter believed the Angels decided the game long before Green’s at-bat. In the sixth inning, when the Red Sox mounted their first comeback, Angels middle infielders twice botched opportunities to turn rally-ending double plays. Instead, the Sox scored five runs.

The Angels predicate their success on sound defense, and lately, in series in New York against the Yankees and here, they have unraveled at key moments. With another playoff series against the Sox looming, Hunter is concerned his teammates play tighter against them.

“That’s what a lot of the players are getting involved in,’’ Hunter said. “It’s not more important. You just play the game like you’ve been playing the whole season. Play every team the same way. This team is not more important than the Tampa Bay Rays or the Seattle Mariners. Same team. You play the game to win, no matter. You have fun. You do what you do. You don’t change nothing because it’s the Red Sox or the Yankees. Play the game. If you play nervous, you’re going to make mistakes.

“You strike out, you strike out. You mess up on a play, you mess up on a play. But don’t show me signs of soft. I want [guts]. I hate to say it. I got to get a point across. There’s some sick talent on this team. I love this team, man. But to win, we got to show [guts]. That’s it, man.’’

Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com.

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