In case there were any lingering doubts, Red Sox manager Terry Francona does not regret walking the Angels’ Torii Hunter to pitch to Vlad Guerrero in the fateful ninth inning of Game 3.
And he doesn’t plan on regretting it anytime soon, even though Guerrero smacked a first-pitch two-run single off closer Jonathan Papelbon to plate what would stand as the series-clinching run.
“For me, nobody will ever be able to tell me that was the wrong move,” Francona said during his weekly interview with the hosts of WEEI’s “Dale and Holley Show” this afternoon. “That’s to say you won’t be able to convince me. I’ve been told a lot.
“Vlad hadn’t done much in that series. I feel like we executed pitches. And if go back to look at the executed pitches we did throw to Vlad, we broke his bat, we struck him out. Torri Hunter swings with a lot of violence and makes me nervous. I thought it was the right thing to do. The first pitch to Vlad wandered out over the middle and he kind of served it to center. He did the job.
“But I would do that again every single time because I know it’s the right thing to do.”
Francona was asked if there was at least some concern that loading the bases by walking Hunter limited Papelbon’s margin for error.
“Yes, it was a factor, but it wasn’t enough of a factor to make me not want to do it,” Francona said. “If Torii does something to help them win the game, I would want to shoot myself. Again, I wasn’t happy that Vlad got a hit, but I would do it every single time if it was the same situation.”
A few of Francona’s other thoughts and comments during today’s postmortem.
On how he’s been handling the Sox’ three-game sweep at the hands of the Angels:
Francona: “Yeah, it’s hard. Every year I guess is a little bit different. A couple years we’ve been fortunate enough to be celebrating. A couple years we’ve been heartbroken. This year’s a harder one to figure. There’s a lot of ways to spin it. I think perspective is probably the hardest thing to achieve early on. From fans, media, myself. One thing we talked when we were down to New York [in the 2004 ALCS] and Cleveland [in the 2007 ALCS], we thought we were good enough to win, but if you put yourself in a position where if you make a mistake and you go home, well, that’s what happened [this time].
“We played a good game the other day for the most part. We scored off a good pitcher. We had a two-run lead going into the ninth. We made some mistakes, and when you get yourselves into a situation like that, when you make a mistake, you end up going home.”
On whether the Angels’ pitching should get credit or the Red Sox’ lineup should get blame for its offensive struggles in the postseason:
Francona: “We probably always look at ourselves more than the other team. I think that’s human nature. [John] Lackey and [Jered] Weaver pitched great games. Now, we feel like once you get to the playoffs, you’ve got to find a way to score. We didn’t. So we always take that responsibility.
“Perspective is the biggest word here and it’s going to be very difficult for people to find that. [Jon] Lester pitched great [in Game 1]. There were some things that happened in that game. For me, probably the biggest one was Bobby Abreu. He had a couple of at-bats where he never flinched. He took a 94 mile per hour fastball two inches outside of the strike zone and never flinched. That’s pretty good hitting. . . . Bobby had that great at-bat, Torii Hunter took Lester deep, and that was the game. Those are things that happen during a game that people don’t necessarily remember that swing in the game.”
On whether there’s such a thing as being too patient. [Co-host Dale Arnold noted that the Sox were 1 for 25 with two walks the first time through the lineup during the three games.]
Francona: “What happens, when you go through the lineup the first time and you don’t have any success, you know, guys are trying to be patient because that’s what we do. And what happens sometimes is now [the opposing pitchers] understand that, they give you strike one, now you’re hitting in a hole. That happens from time to time. That’s the way this game is. That’s why when the game’s over you tip your hat to the opposing team, and you sometimes wish you had done some things better. We didn’t want to be too aggressive . . . what ended up happening is that we ended up 0-1 a lot. And we ended up expanding the zone because they made us expand. So it kind of goes both ways.”