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Chess Match: Pick your poison

Chess Match: Pick your poison

BOSTON -- Unlike Wednesday night's Boston-dominated Game 1, Friday's second game of the American League Division Series was a tight, breathtaking affair that hinged on battles of the bullpens and managerial decisions.

Most intriguingly, the Angels' Mike Scioscia and Terry Francona of the Red Sox repeated the same play four innings apart, with dramatically different results; the Halos getting three runs out of it, but Boston running itself out of a sixth-inning opportunity.

But, ultimately, Scioscia's own repeat of a tough call decided the game. In the fifth, his decision to intentionally walk David Ortiz to face Manny Ramirez bit him only mildly. Four innings later, it came back to haunt big time.

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Manny happy returns
The situation:
With the 3-3 cliffhanger seemingly settled in for the long haul, Julio Lugo is on second base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth as Ortiz strides up to the plate.


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The decision: Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez issues an intentional walk to Ortiz, setting up a confrontation with Ramirez. The same move in the fifth inning hurt only mildly, leading to a sacrifice fly by Mike Lowell that knotted the score at 3.

The outcome: The strategy flies over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Street, as Ramirez powers Rodriguez's 1-0 pitch for a walk-off home run.

The analysis: "I don't know where the pitch was -- I'll have to see the tape -- but I guess it wasn't a good pitch. That's baseball. You have to go out there and challenge whoever it is. I fell behind and tried to get even on the count." -- Rodriguez

Angels run into a three-run inning
The situation:
The Angels have runners at the corners with one out in the second inning, again threatening Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had been able to pitch out of a similar jam in the first.


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The decision: Already trailing, 2-0, and scoreless in their last 14 postseason innings, the Angels need to take risks, and Scioscia takes a big one -- he has Kendry Morales take off from first on the 3-2 pitch to strikeout-prone Jeff Mathis (49 whiffs in 171 at-bats).

The outcome: Mathis sends a hard grounder to Lowell at third, a perfect double-play ball -- except Morales is already on second, and Casey Kotchman scores from third. The ploy extends the inning for two more runs, on consecutive RBI doubles by Chone Figgins and Orlando Cabrera.

The analysis: "[Morales] was running on his own. When I see that, my focus is to just put the ball in play, figuring it gets us a run. As it turned out, it led to three." -- Mathis

An odd time for a pinch-hitter
The situation:
With two outs in the Angels' eighth, Kendrick reaches base when he grounds to third and Lowell's low throw to first evades Youkilis, bringing up Mathis, the No. 9 hitter.


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The decision: Mathis takes a ball from Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon, then a strike -- on which Kendrick steals second. The changed situation prompts Scioscia to replace Mathis with pinch-hitter Juan Rivera -- who thus inherits a 1-1 count.

The outcome: Rivera works a tough walk, but the opportunity ends when Papelbon blows a called third strike past Figgins. The trickle-down effect is more profound -- with Vladimir Guerrero also having to come out with a shoulder bruised by a Manny Delcarmen pitch in the seventh, Scioscia has used up his bench -- Reggie Willits had run for Rivera, and now Mike Napoli replaces Mathis behind the plate.

The analysis: "We were looking all night for a matchup with Juan. We thought the count was still reasonable enough that he would get some pitches to hit. And you've got to keep pressing. He kept the inning going ... but we couldn't get that hit." -- Scioscia

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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