Schmidt wins one for Mom, helps Giants get aheadPosted: Sunday October 20, 2002 12:15 AM
Updated: Sunday October 20, 2002 2:59 AM
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Jason Schmidt began the season worrying about his mother and feeling pretty low. He didn't know October would bring the thrill of his first World Series victory.
Schmidt held the Anaheim Angels in check into the sixth inning and got help from the San Francisco bullpen to lead the Giants to a 4-3 victory Saturday night.
If he appeared to be throwing his 97 mph fastballs with an extra kick, it might be because his mother, Vicki, was in the stands.
When she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in spring training, her son spent months worrying about her health. Now that she has improved dramatically, Schmidt is free to concentrate on helping the Giants' surprising quest for a title.
Schmidt, who had never played in the postseason before this month, admitted to sneaking an occasional look at the section where she was sitting.
"It's exciting for her," Schmidt said. "With this whole situation as bad as it is, being here at the World Series is something that takes her mind off it. This really helps her stay positive. It does a lot for our family to be together like this. It's really perfect timing."
Schmidt challenged Anaheim with his hardest fastballs from the first at-bat, and with the notable exception of Troy Glaus' two homers, he pitched well.
The right-hander held the Angels to one run on Glaus' first homer over the first five innings, striking out six and holding Anaheim hitless in its first seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.
In fact, Schmidt thought he did much of the hard work earlier in the week while arranging for eight family members and friends to get to Anaheim for his third career postseason start. Vicki Schmidt also watched her son pitch in the division series against Atlanta.
"My wife was like a travel agent for me," Schmidt said. "I think this week was more hectic for her. She got everything arranged, and I tried to concentrate on the game, but it wasn't easy until I got out on the mound. I was churning a little bit, but everything was fine."
Glaus' second homer leading off the sixth seemed to rattle Schmidt, who threw an overly aggressive fastball that Glaus pounded. Schmidt gave up another run on Adam Kennedy's RBI single before being relieved by Felix Rodriguez.
But in facing down the Angels' noisy crowd and their powerful hitters, Schmidt did much of the difficult work in the Series opener.
J.T. Snow, Schmidt's teammate and friend, went through an even more difficult time several years ago when his mother, Merry, was dying of bone cancer.
"Sometimes, that's the best place to be, when you're out on the field," Snow said. "Sometimes, the easiest hour or the calmest three hours is the time you're out on the field playing. It's a relief for you when you're between the lines."
Schmidt essentially became the Giants' No. 1 starter in the second half of the regular season with a string of outstanding performances, but he shied away from any indication he was San Francisco's go-to guy.
Schmidt has been mostly exceptional since the Giants acquired him from Pittsburgh at last season's trade deadline. He went 7-1 down the stretch as San Francisco barely missed the playoffs in 2001.
This season, slowed by injuries and his mother's ill health, Schmidt didn't hit full stride until some time near the All-Star break. He went 6-2 in his final nine starts of the regular season, finishing with a career-high 13 victories and 196 strikeouts.
He got just one start in each of the first two rounds of the postseason, winning once and losing once, but nobody was surprised when manager Dusty Baker chose Schmidt to open the World Series.
With his smoking fastball and impressive off-speed pitches, Schmidt is the Giants' most intimidating pitcher outside of closer Robb Nen -- and the Angels must adjust from Schmidt's heat in time to face Russ Ortiz's softer stuff in Game 2 on Sunday night.