Staggering Giants face a critical situation in Game 4Posted: Wednesday October 23, 2002 1:11 PM
Updated: Wednesday October 23, 2002 2:35 PM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Game 1 is huge. Nobody wants to get off to a bad start in the World Series. Nobody wants to get behind right away. So Game 1 is critical.
Game 2, too. Can't let a team get too far ahead. And if you're lucky enough to be on the other end … well, you go up 2-0 in a Series, you might as well start looking up the engraver's number.
Then there's Game 3, of course. No one's ever come back from a 3-0 hole in the World Series, so that's a biggie whichever side you're on. And if the Series is tied 1-1 at that point, Game 3 is the classic rubber game. It's a big one. Yes it is.
Game 4. There's a Game 4 Wednesday night in the World Series. The Anaheim Angels lead the San Francisco Giants, 2-1, in the best-of-seven Series. After Wednesday, two things can happen: This suddenly becomes a best-of-three Series, destined to return to Anaheim, or the Giants step into a world of hurt.
Big game, you say?
Aren't they all?
"If it's 3-3, I think Game 7's pretty important," Anaheim pitcher Jarrod Washburn cracked, a good-natured, smart-alecky smile slipping across his face. "They're all pretty important, really."
Nobody involved in this Series first-hand likes to put added importance on one game over another, but the fact is, depending on the situation, there are big games and there are really big games.
Sure, a team can lose the first game and still win the Series. A team can lose the first two games, in fact, and still win the Series. It's happened 11 times.
And though no team's ever rebounded from being down 3-0, a handful of teams have come back from 3-1. Many more, of course, have not.
And that's where the Giants stand going into Wednesday's game at Pacific Bell Park. They have two choices, though the choice isn't completely theirs. They can go down 3-1 and face some really long odds, or they can pull even at 2-2.
"There's a big difference between 3-1 and 2-2," said Giants first baseman J.T. Snow. "It's kind of like a swing game."
The Series has gone to a 3-1 advantage 41 times (there have been 97 Fall Classics), and the team that has come out of Game 4 with a 3-1 Series lead has won the whole caboodle 35 times (85 percent). Translation: You don't want to get down 3-1. (We have no translation of "whole caboodle.")
So, yes, as games go, Game 4 in this particular instance is a big one.
"If you'd have told me [before the Series] that we'd be down 2-1, yes, I'd say Game 4 [is the most important game,]" Giants shortstop Rich Aurilia said. "So, yeah, it's a big one. But we've had a lot of big ones. We've been playing big ones for the past month and a half."
Wednesday night in Game 4, the Giants will start lefty Kirk Rueter, who will try to slow down an Anaheim team that scored 11 runs in Game 2 and 10 runs Tuesday night in Game 3.
Rueter is a control pitcher, a "Steady Eddie" type, as his manager, Dusty Baker, calls him. Rueter allowed only 2.4 walks per nine innings during the regular season (ninth in the National League) had a 3.23 ERA (also ninth) and a 3.02 ERA at Pac Bell Park (eighth in the NL).
He may be just what the Giants need.
"We need some innings from our starters," Baker said. "Kirk Rueter, the big-game guy, hopefully he can go deep into the ballgame and give our relief pitchers some breathing room. At least some time off.
"When they're in there as early as they've been the last two [games], it's really more about preserving somebody versus having the proper matchup against whoever is up there hitting."
A lot can happen in Game 4. The Angels are hitting .353 as a team. The Giants' Barry Bonds has hit home runs in his first three Series games. Anaheim center fielder Darin Erstad will try to keep alive his postseason hitting streak. He's hit safely in all 12 of the Angels' games.
In the end, though, only two things matter for the Giants. They can win to put this Series at two wins apiece. Or they can lose and face that daunting 3-1 hole.
And if they lose, Game 5 will be really big for them.