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The Angels, the Red Sox, TBS and why Willits was out

October 6, 2008 | 10:44 pm

Angels10

If you thought Reggie Willits made it safely back to third base on the busted squeeze play in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the Angels-Red Sox division series, you must have had "Monday Night Football," not Monday Night baseball, on your mind. You were probably switching back and forth too much between TBS and ESPN.

TBS' cameras perfectly caught the moment. After Erick Aybar failed to make contact on the bunt attempt, Boston catcher Jason Varitek ran the onrushing Willits back toward third and tagged the runner with the ball firmly lodged in his glove.

As Varitek hit the ground, the ball popped loose. Angels Manager Mike Scioscia vigorously protested the call by umpire Tim Welke, but Scioscia lost the argument as well as the game.

This isn't football, in which a receiver has to maintain possession until he comes down with a catch. This is baseball, in which the only requirement is that possession of the ball is maintained until the tag is applied.

Strange sight: The Tampa Bay Rays, perennial losers, dancing around in celebration after eliminating the Chicago White Sox in their division series.

Wasn't it only a few years ago when any clinching of a postseason series by Boston, perennial losers for most of the 20th century, was big news? Now, it's almost anticipated.

Best graphic: TBS uses Pitchtrax to show where balls are thrown in relation to the strike zone. Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester figured he had struck out Mark Teixeira on a 1-2 pitch in the fifth, taking a step toward the dugout.

Not so fast, said umpire Ed Rapuano, calling the pitch a ball. Pitchtrax clearly showed the pitch was way outside.

Back came Lester with a 2-2 pitch. Again he started for the dugout, and this time, Rapuano told him to keep going. It was strike three.

What did Pitchtrax show? Almost the same location, way outside. So much for the human element.

-- Steve Springer

Photo: Boston catcher Jason Varitek tags Angels pinch-runner Reggie Willits before he returns to third base on a failed squeeze play in the ninth inning Monday night. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times