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Scioscia maintains the upper hand

Scioscia maintains the upper hand

ANAHEIM -- The word "owns" is often tossed about when it comes to matchups in sports.

It's rarely short of hyperbole but it isn't much of a stretch to spin it back a notch and describe Mike Scioscia as leaseholder when it comes to his magical grip over both Joe Torre and the Dodgers.

During Torre's tenure in New York, the Angels were the only team to have a winning record against the Yankees and Scioscia was the Angels manager for eight of those 12 seasons.

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In the era of Interleague Play, which began in 1997, the Angels hold a 36-27 edge over the Dodgers and can even lay claim to a 55-43-4 advantage in the exhibition Freeway Series.

Perhaps being an ex-Dodger, Scioscia taps into the psyche of his former team. And possibly his ability to continue an advantage over the Yankees stems from the two World Series rings that Scioscia earned as a player, both of which came at the expense of the Yankees.

There's also the Angels victory over the Yankees in the 2002 ALDS. It was the first postseason series victory in Angels franchise history and ultimately propelled them to a World Series title.

While any and all theories remain open for discussion, the terms of the lease have yet to expire as Scioscia's Angels turned in a 4-2 victory over Torre's Dodgers on a warm Friday evening.

"At times they've beaten us and we've beaten them," Scioscia said. "It comes down to playing good baseball. I haven't looked back and seen any rhyme or reason to it."

It was the ninth victory for the Angels in the last 10 games between the two clubs.

"They're a good team. You come out and you play and you hope that you play hard and play well enough to win," said Torre, who is in his first year at the helm of the Dodgers. "That is all you can do. They have good teams; it is not a mistake they win a lot of ball games."

Scioscia is loathe to admit an advantage, psychological or otherwise, and his default position is to refer to on-field results.

"I don't see it as manager against manager. I see it as team against team and we've had good teams here that I think have matched up with some of the personnel that the Yankees have had," Scioscia said. "They got a bunch of rings with him so he must be doing something right."

Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda likes to refer to the great Dodger in the sky and others speak in mystically reverent tones about the ghosts of Yankee Stadium yet maybe Scioscia is able to summon a spirit from his roots and call on the good will of the Philly Phantom.

Those requiring evidence beyond the mere anecdotal need look no further than Friday night's fourth inning when a pair of quirky plays both went the way of the Angels.

Andruw Jones led off the inning with a hard ground ball to the hole at shortstop. Erick Aybar ranged to his right, turned and fired the ball over the head of Casey Kotchman at first. Jones had no intentions of advancing to second but he flinched slightly to his left, then turned to his right and walked back to the bag.

Kotchman retrieved the ball and alertly tagged Jones but first base umpire Sam Holbrook called Jones safe.

Scioscia bolted from the dugout and sprinted across the diamond to argue the call, claiming Jones made a turn toward second base and was a live baserunner. The umpires conferred and the result was an overturned call as crew chief Gerry Davis ruled Jones out.

Instead of facing a runner with none out, Angels starter Joe Saunders retired the side in order.

The bottom half of the inning also involved Aybar, who struck out swinging. But the ball eluded Dodgers catcher Gary Bennett who was unable to apply the tag on Aybar. Bennett took his time, double-clutched and airmailed the ball over first baseman James Loney.

Kotchman, who had sliced a two-out double down the left-field line, scored on the error and Aybar raced all the way to third for a 1-0 lead.

Scioscia proved that his luck extended to even the arguments, whether or not the verdict turned in his favor.

In the seventh, with Maicer Izturis on third, Vlad Guerrero hit a chopper that appeared to go over the bag but umpire Bruce Dreckman ruled it foul. Scioscia again sprang from the dugout and vehemently protested the call and despite a couple of minutes of heated debate, Scioscia did not get the call overturned.

"I thought it was a fair ball," Scioscia said without elaborating.

TV replays were unable to support either case but the point was rendered moot as Guerrero hit another chopper to third on the very next pitch. Russell Martin's throw was low and squirted away from Bennett as Izturis added an insurance run.

"In these types of games you look at this and it's magnified," Torre said. "There are things that certainly are errors of judgment and errors on the field but in close games those are the things that make the difference."

Possibly, but so is Scioscia's ability to not only reach but find that little extra.

Mike Scarr 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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