Best of three
Giants solve phenom, squeak past Angels to even SeriesPosted: Wednesday October 23, 2002 11:51 PM
Updated: Thursday October 24, 2002 5:02 AM
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The San Francisco Giants proved the Kid was really Mr. Hittable, after all.
And just in time.
David Bell lined a tiebreaking single off rookie sensation Francisco Rodriguez in the eighth inning and the Giants rallied past the Anaheim Angels 4-3 Wednesday night, tying the World Series at two games each.
Down early and in danger of being blown out again, the Giants somehow slowed down Anaheim's persistent hitters.
And then, the biggest surprise of all: The Giants broke through against Rodriguez, who had been known as Mr. Unhittable, and Bell became the latest son to honor his major league father with a big hit in this Series.
"I was just trying to get a pitch I could handle and hit it hard," Bell said. "I don't know, he's had a lot of success so far. He's done a great job for these guys.
"So to get a win tonight was big," he said. "I think to get a run off him is important, too."
Officially, it was an unearned run because of a passed ball on Bengie Molina. No matter, it counted all the same as Giants came back from a 3-0 deficit and posted their first Series win at home since 1962, setting off fog horn blasts from the nearby bay.
"You're not going to win every time," Rodriguez said. "I felt great, I made a couple of mistakes. They took advantage. Today, my stuff was good.
"You're going to have your bad days, your lucky days," he said. "I'll forget it, it's in the past, come back strong tomorrow."
Rodriguez had been a record-tying 5-0 in this postseason, and he embarrassed the Giants with three perfect innings in Game 2.
"You're just trying to get to a young pitcher, maybe knock him off his pedestal," San Francisco's Jeff Kent said. "He's had a clean playoff slate, and we were hoping to dirty it a little bit."
Rodriguez set down Barry Bonds in pitching a perfect seventh, but the 20-year-old with a wicked slider and crackling fastball soon absorbed his first major league loss.
Rodriguez had blown away all 12 San Francisco hitters he faced until J.T. Snow singled to start the eighth. Snow moved up when Molina let a fastball skip off his mitt, but stayed put when first baseman Scott Spiezio made a sensational, diving catch on Reggie Sanders' foul bunt.
Bell singled sharply past diving shortstop David Eckstein and Snow scored ahead of center fielder Darin Erstad's throw, setting off a celebration at Pacific Bell Park.
"You might be a little spoiled by Francisco," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's gotten virtually everybody out. But we know that's not the life of a pitcher.
"I don't think you can look at what Francisco didn't do. Those guys are good hitters," he said.
Tim Worrell got the win and Robb Nen closed for a save.
The tight, tense duel came on a special night for baseball. Pete Rose drew the biggest ovation and Cal Ripken, Hank Aaron and Mark McGwire also were honored in a pregame tribute to the sport's most memorable moments.
Jason Schmidt will start for the Giants in Game 5 Thursday night against Jarrod Washburn. It'll be a rematch of the opener in which Schmidt outpitched the Angels ace, and assures that the Series will return to Anaheim.
Bell's father, Buddy, and grandfather, Gus, both played in the majors. Buddy, who was at Pac Bell, and Gus combined for nine All-Star appearances, yet never reached the World Series.
"That's about the only thing we don't talk about," David said.
Spiezio and Bonds, of course, also had dads in the big leagues. Snow's father played in the NFL.
Pitching on his 24th birthday, Angels rookie John Lackey picked up a nice present, the souvenir ball from his first major league hit. More importantly for Anaheim, he avoided trouble on the mound, thanks mostly to Benito Santiago.
Twice, Lackey intentionally walked Bonds to load the bases with one out. Both times, he got Santiago to hit grounders to Eckstein that the shortstop turned into inning-ending double plays.
"When I hit into the second double play, I didn't even want to go back to the dugout," Santiago said. "I felt like jumping into the stands and sitting with the fans."
Yet Santiago got sweet redemption with an RBI single that capped a three-run fifth that made it 3-all. And in a tasty twist for a Series dominated by long balls, the comeback started with two of the shortest hits yet.
Pitcher Kirk Rueter led off with a high chopper that he beat out for an infield single. Kenny Lofton followed with a bunt that slowly danced down the chalk line until third baseman Troy Glaus picked it up for another little single.
Rich Aurilia singled home the Giants' first run, Kent hit a sacrifice fly and, after another intentional walk to Bonds, Santiago singled up the middle. The MVP of the NL Championship Series clapped his hands and pointed toward the San Francisco dugout after rounding first base.
"Benito's come through big time in the second half," Giants manager Dusty Baker said.
Glaus hit a two-run shot, tying Bonds' record of seven home runs in a postseason, to give the Angels a 3-0 lead in the third.
All in all, it was a shaky start for the Giants, especially after they gave up 21 runs in the previous two games.
"You can't start thinking, 'Here we go again' because it will happen again," Baker said. "Yeah, you're concerned."
Lackey was no lackey at the plate in his first major league at-bat -- then again, he hit .428 in leading Grayson County, Texas, to the 1999 Junior College World Series championship.
With runners on first and second and one out in the second, Lackey fouled off a bunt attempt. Undaunted with two strikes, he expertly took a low-and-away fastball the other way to right for a single that loaded the bases. Eckstein's sacrifice fly made it 1-0.
A leadoff single by Tim Salmon set up Glaus' third homer of the Series, a shot to center over the leaping Lofton.
Notes: Bonds' three intentional walks were the most in a Series game since intentional passes were first recorded in 1955. ... The Giants and Angels each turned three double plays. The total of six tied the Series mark for a nine-inning game. ... The teams have combined for 14 home runs, three short of the Series record done three times. ... The last pitcher to start a Series game on his birthday was Tim Belcher, who did it in 1988 for Los Angeles.