Hernandez can't back up Mr. October boastPosted: Sunday October 27, 2002 11:41 PM
Updated: Monday October 28, 2002 12:50 AM
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Livan Hernandez is no Mr. October, as he so boldly professed to the baseball world.
This winter, the San Francisco Giants pitcher will probably reconsider whether he should have opened his mouth to issue such a grand proclamation: "I never lose in October."
He did lose this month -- twice. And both times on baseball's biggest stage, no less.
The perfect postseason record -- gone. The 1997 World Series and NLCS MVP honors -- ancient history. Nobody cares much about that now.
When the Giants needed him most, Hernandez didn't get them the World Series ring that has eluded the franchise for nearly five decades.
He lasted only two-plus innings in Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Angels in Game 7 of the World Series.
"Nobody feels good. You lost the World Series," a teary-eyed Hernandez said. "Anaheim beat me. I don't have an excuse. They were hitting. I was throwing balls and I can't do anything."
He allowed four runs on four hits with four walks and a strikeout as the Giants came up short in their bid for the franchise's first championship in 48 years.
"I think that's a great offensive team that scored a few runs off him," third baseman David Bell said.
The Giants last won the whole thing in 1954, when they were still in New York. They thought Hernandez could get it done, pitching on his regular four days' rest.
Manager Dusty Baker stood by his decision to start Hernandez and not Kirk Rueter, who would have been on three days' rest. Rueter came in to pitch four solid innings.
"Livan was strong. He could have gone nine innings," Baker said. "We feel we did the right thing going with Livan."
Said general manager Brian Sabean: "He's got to make his pitches like any other pitcher. You've got to give credit to the Angels. If it was their turn, they probably would have beaten Nolan Ryan."
Carrying an impressive 6-0 career postseason record into the World Series, Hernandez believed he was unbeatable.
Then, in Game 3, reality immediately set in.
The Giants' big-game star -- whose off-speed stuff has thrown off plenty of hitters over the years -- gave up five hits, five walks and six runs while getting chased in the fourth inning of a 10-4 loss. It marked his first setback in three trips to the postseason.
"I didn't have control," he said. "It happens sometimes. I felt better today and threw more strikes."
Inconsistency was the story of his season. It stuck with him into the World Series, too.
Hernandez, the 27-year-old half brother of the New York Yankees' Orlando Hernandez, beat Atlanta's Tom Glavine to force a deciding Game 5 in the NL division series.
Since the brothers defected from Cuba, they've been an October staple in the United States.
Even after a disappointing record of 12-16 this regular season, leading the NL in losses, he was confident before his first playoff outing.
Hernandez got big-game experience as a teen-ager in Cuba, when he won important starts for his youth team in international competition.
But he didn't always feel so unstoppable. In his first outing for his club team in Cuba as a 17-year-old, Hernandez gave up three straight homers, prompting a lesson from his pitching coach.
"You need to go out and relax and not try too hard," Hernandez said last week. "If you try too hard, you don't throw strikes, you hang your curveball or slider. You don't want to do that in this situation in the playoffs. If you do that, they'll make you pay."
With the World Series on the line, the Angels did exactly that.