All Angel right fielder Tim Salmon seemed to see in his first two at-bats against San Francisco Giant right-hander Jason Schmidt on Saturday night was fastball away, fastball away, and the results weren't pretty: A strikeout swinging at a 97-mph heater in the first inning and a fly-ball out to center in the third.
So when Schmidt came in with a first-pitch fastball over the middle of the plate with runners on first and third in the fifth inning, Salmon's eyes "got real big." What happened next made 44,603 in Edison Field want to shield their eyes.
Salmon lifted a high pop-up in foul territory near the San Francisco dugout, Giant first baseman J.T. Snow sprinted in, slipped on the rubber-like surface near the screen, fell flat on his back, bounced back up--no standing eight-count necessary--and made a superb catch.
"Just my luck, huh?" Salmon said.
It was that kind of night for the Angels, who left runners stranded like motorists in the break-down lane during a frustrating 4-3 loss to the Giants in Game 1 of the World Series.
An Angel team that hit .290 with runners in scoring position during the regular season and put together an eight-run inning against the New York Yankees and a 10-run inning against the Minnesota Twins in two previous playoff series went hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position in the first five innings Saturday night.
An Angel team that struck out the fewest times in the American League this season struck out nine times Saturday night, losing despite outhitting the Giants, 9-6.
"We had chances, we had the right guys up there, and we just didn't do the job, we didn't get it done," Angel batting instructor Mickey Hatcher said. "Our guys aren't happy. They're going to come back [ticked] off [tonight]. So watch out."
There was plenty to be angry about Saturday night. After Troy Glaus homered with one out in the second to trim the Giant lead to 2-1, Brad Fullmer singled and, with two out, stole second. But Bengie Molina flied to left. End of threat.
Adam Kennedy doubled off the wall in right-center field to open the third inning and took third on a masterful at-bat by David Eckstein, who, after failing to lay down a sacrifice bunt, fisted a 97-mph,1-and-2 fastball on the ground to second base.
Schmidt, whose fastball was clocked between 95 and 99 mph, blew a high 97-mph pitch past Darin Erstad for strike three, and Salmon flied to center to end the inning.
The Angels threatened again in the fourth when Garret Anderson led off with a single. Two outs later, Scott Spiezio worked a 2-and-2 count against Schmidt, presenting aggressive-minded Manager Mike Scioscia with a situation in which he has usually sent the runner.
But Anderson, Scioscia revealed afterward, has been suffering from a tight hamstring, and Scioscia didn't send him. Spiezio laced a double down the right-field line, but Anderson had to hold at third. Molina grounded out to third to end the inning.
Then came the fifth, which included the at-bat that Salmon replayed in his mind a few times Saturday night. With one out, Eckstein reached on a single, and Erstad lined a hit-and-run single to center, moving Eckstein to third.
Salmon admitted he was a little keyed up in his first-ever World Series game--"It was real easy to get excited in this kind of atmosphere," he said--but high anxiety wasn't a factor in him swinging at Schmidt's first pitch.
"All year long I've been aggressive early in the count," he said. "I was ready for a pitch I could handle, that I could put in play hard. It was a good swing, I was just a little under it.... Just a click off. He gave me a pitch to hit, and in most circumstances, you'd think I could put the ball in play."