Giants take Angels for a spin in whirlwind fifth inningPosted: Thursday October 24, 2002 2:00 AM
Updated: Thursday October 24, 2002 4:35 AM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants have had their troubles trying to out-punch the punch-filled Anaheim Angels in this 98th World Series. So Wednesday, in a Game 4 that has changed the face of this chameleon of a Series once again, the Giants simply out-spun them.
Two back-to-back so-called hits, neither of which was hit hard enough to actually get to an infielder, started a mini-rally in the fifth inning that got the Giants' offense back in gear in a crucial 4-3 win over the Angels.
The Giants' starting pitcher, Kirk Rueter, started the show. The team's leadoff batter, Kenny Lofton, kept it going. And before the Angels knew what hadn't hit them, the Giants had scratched back from three runs down and tied the score on their way to tying the Series at two games apiece.
"That's baseball," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "Those guys got a rally started. They capitalized on it. There's nothing cheap about it. That's the game."
Angels fans may be crying over those two hits for years. If the Giants rebound to win this Series, those two fifth-inning hits could end up as another hoary chapter in the Angels' horrific postseason history.
It all started so quietly, too. The Giants were down 3-0 the night after a 10-4 drubbing. They already had left five men on base in the first four innings. Rueter already had thrown a ton of pitches. Catcher Benito Santiago already had grounded into two inning-ending double plays. The Giants were looking at a 3-1 Series hole.
But luck was definitely sitting in their dugout.
Manager Dusty Baker, badly needing some offense, instead sent Rueter up to hit as the first batter in the bottom of the fifth. "I really needed another inning out of Kirk, big time," Baker explained. Rueter quickly got behind 0-2.
But he fouled off a pitch, took a ball and on the next pitch hit a chopper in front of the plate that came down right in front of starter John Lackey and catcher Bengie Molina.
Lackey looked at Molina. Molina looked at Lackey. Lackey finally grabbed it, but his throw to first was too late to get Rueter.
"I thought Lackey was going to get it. I thought it was going to bounce to him," Molina said. "Then it bounced back to me. It surprised me."
Lackey got off the mound well, but when the ball bounced away from him, he hesitated a split second too long.
"It just kind of died in the grass. We looked at each other … there wasn't a whole lot you could do about it," Lackey said. "It was just kind of in no-man's land."
Again looking for any kind of run, Lofton came up next and bunted the first pitch he saw from Lackey down the third-base line, trying to move Rueter into scoring position. Angels third baseman Troy Glaus charged it, then decided to let it roll in hopes it would go foul.
It was rolling in fair territory when it bounced off the grass line in the infield and took a left turn, spinning toward the foul line. It rolled some more. It rolled onto the line. It rolled into foul territory.
And in the second it took Glaus to reach over and grab it, the ball spun back onto the line. A fair ball. Everyone was safe.
"It was getting to the point where it wasn't going to be rolling anymore," Glaus said. "I was just a tick slow.
"You probably couldn't throw it out there any better than that."
With runners on first and second with no one out, the Giants finally awoke. Shortstop Rich Aurilia smacked a hard single to center to drive home Rueter and make the score 3-1. Second baseman Jeff Kent flew out to right field to drive in Lofton. And after an intentional walk to Barry Bonds, Santiago drove in the tying run with a single to center field.
Rueter and three relievers held the Angels the rest of the way, and Giants third baseman David Bell drove home the winning run in the eighth with a single to center field.
It was a painful way to lose for the Angels. Ironic, too. The team known for its small-ball style of play was done in by a pair of slow-rolling, funky-spinning infield singles.
"I had a couple of situations where I was fortunate to get a couple of ground balls to get out of [trouble]," Lackey said, referring to the two double plays the Angels turned off Santiago grounders. "So it goes both ways."