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World Series | Diane Pucin

The Angels Will Give an Inch but Take a Mile

October 20, 2002|Diane Pucin

So the Angels lost the first game of the World Series.

Big deal.

So the Angels lost, 4-3, to the Giants and left men at third base three times, twice with fewer than two outs, which would seem to be terribly disheartening, awfully discouraging, horribly draining

But it's not.

This is how they do it, these Angels. This is how they play their game. They give you something, sure.

They gave the Yankees a win in Game 1 of the American League division series. Remember that? How Troy Glaus homered twice (just like Saturday night) and the Angels went ahead late at Yankee Stadium until Brendan Donnelly gave up the Bernie Williams home run? Remember how distraught the Angels were, how they were left for dead, just a happy little band of Yankee road kill? They were so psychically mind boggled that they swept the next three games.

And the way Joe Mays and all his off-speed, off-kilter, off-center stuff twisted the Angels all up in Game 1 of the American League championship series. Remember that? Remember how they lost 2-1, left men on base, had lots of terrible at-bats, lunged at pitches, were impatient, not smart, confoundingly frazzled and got very frustrated? They were taken out of their game so much that the Angels came back to win the next four games against the Twins.

The Angels give you something, then they come back and take everything from you. They give you a game, they take a series. They give you hope, they take your hearts.

They gave away the first month of the season, 6-14 at the start, worst ever for a franchise filled with worsts. So why would anyone think the Angels would be different in the World Series?

"I thought we did a lot of good things tonight," Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said. "I thought we were aggressive and did some things, made some plays. Just not enough, but I'm not in any way discouraged."

It is the way Scott Spiezio battled hard, came from an 0-2 count down to ease a walk off of Tim Worrell in the bottom of the eighth inning when there were two outs already so that he could become the tying run. And the way Orlando Palmeiro, pinch-hitting, worked the count to 3-2 before he popped out to the third baseman. On this night Spiezio didn't score. Palmeiro didn't get the walk or the single. On another it will be different.

These Angels keep plugging away. They will put pressure on Russ Ortiz today. They will look over pitches, as if sifting through sand for gold, as if prying open oysters and searching for pearls. They will put men on base again and will keep trying to get them home.

Tim Salmon will maybe not pop out, foul, on a first pitch, first swing, just after David Eckstein had singled and Darin Erstad had singled Eckstein to third. Salmon will not be shy about swinging again, but he'll be better.

Kevin Appier will probably make a mistake or two. He'll give up some runs, two or three. Barry Bonds might hit another home run on a mistake. But Angel pitchers probably won't give up three home runs in Game 2.

"We've been able to come back all year," hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. "I'm really not worried." He was speaking specifically about the batters who left all those runners stranded but his words are true of the Angels, all of them.

There will be second-guessing today. Did Scioscia leave Jarrod Washburn in one batter too long? Wasn't Washburn struggling in the sixth after he had gotten two outs but had also thrown moe than 100 pitches and had given up a hard single Reggie Sanders and had gone 3-0 on J.T. Snow, then 3-1, then home run?

But Washburn is Scioscia's guy, the ace, the tough competitor and Scioscia trusts his players and he trusted Washburn to get that final out in the sixth inning. He didn't do it this time. He will the next time. The way that Washburn shrugged his shoulders and smiled when Bonds homered in his first World Series at-bat?

That shrug, that smile, that's the Angels. They lose, they shrug, they smile, they win the next one and the next and the next.

A loss, blown chances? So what?

"It's not that we want to lose the first game," Eckstein said. "But it's not as if we're worried about it. I'm not really concerned."

"We lost," Spiezio said. "It was a close game, same as the other two game ones. It was close and exciting, same as the others, and we lost. We've battled in every one of these first games. And we lost. What's the same? We won the next one."

Down the line it went.

Missed chances, hate that. Next game, we'll win that. Salmon said it, Washburn said it, Erstad said it, Glaus said it, Bud Black said it, Scioscia said it, Bengie Molina said it.

It's as if these Angels need to punish themselves a little, need to blow some chances, waste some swings, throw some bad pitches, put Angeldom to thinking about how this is it, the time when everything falls apart, now it's happening, this is the loss that can't be overcome, this is the game that is the beginning of the end.

"One loss? We'll get over it," Washburn said. He shrugged. He smiled. He will pitch again. He's sure of it.

*

Diane Pucin can be reached at diane.pucin@latimes.com.

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