The Los Angeles Angels opened up Tuesday night’s matchup with the Detroit Tigers by hitting three home runs in the first two innings. Yet, it was a Magneuris Sierra walk-off bunt single in the 10th inning that secured a 5-4 victory and a chance at a sweep on Wednesday.
Sierra was brought in as a pinch runner in the bottom of the eighth inning, then stayed as a defensive replacement in left field. Given where he was in the order, it was unlikely that he would actually bat. But in the 10th inning, he came up to the plate with runners at the corners and only one out.
With his speed and intelligence on the base paths, Angels interim manager Phil Nevin gave the signal to drop a safety squeeze. It worked to perfection, as Andrew Velazquez made it home before the throw to the plate and the Angels walked it off in small-ball style.
Sierra spoke about the feeling of landing his first career walk-off, and for it to come via a bunt, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“I feel more than happy because it was something I’d never experienced before,” Sierra said through an interpreter. “I feel very fortunate. I practice my bunts a lot because it has helped me throughout my career.”
Nevin credited the early home runs for setting the tone for the Angels, but re-focused the praise back onto a perfect bunt from Sierra.
“Any time one of your big guys gets you out to a jump like that, it kind of shoots energy throughout the whole dugout, and Mike going deep there in the first and getting a couple in the second as well did that,” Nevin said. “The safety [squeeze] was more to look at the infield and if they’re crashing, swing, but he dropped down a great bunt. Magneuris works on his bunting every day.”
In a game dominated by launch angle analytics and maximizing power, to see small-ball tactics like a safety squeeze work to such perfection is a nice change of pace. Former Angels manager Joe Maddon often implored the team to play with these tactics in mind, and Nevin is continuing that trend.
Perhaps this moment will give Sierra more opportunities in similar situations. However, on the season, Sierra is slashing just .188/.226/.275 with a .501 OPS in 85 plate appearances.
Jo Adell learning from Luis Rengifo
Luis Rengifo’s breakout performance in 2022 is serving as inspiration for an often-struggling Jo Adell. While the two players are not very similar in terms of skillset, Rengifo had a difficult time impacting the game in his first three seasons despite high expectations.
Now, Adell is hoping he can take lessons from Rengifo’s vast improvement to become the player the Angels hoped he would be.