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Appier Puts Pressure on Angels' Staff

October 21, 2002|Ross Newhan

There were 28 hits and 21 runs, and buried somewhere under the debris was Kevin Appier.

The Angels survived Game 2 of the World Series, but ...

Did Appier?

Did their rotation?

Long after they had finished measuring Barry Bonds' 485-foot home run on Troy Percival's 97-mph fastball in the ninth inning, long after final tabulations documented that the Angels had indeed defeated the San Francisco Giants, 11-10, to salvage a split of the first two games, there were only cursory answers to the above questions.

* Appier, who was unable to sustain leads of 5-0 and 7-4 or finish the third inning in a continuation of what has been an ongoing inability to deliver innings, did survive to the extent that he was walking and talking in the clubhouse and is still scheduled to start Game 6 at Edison Field on Saturday, if it's necessary.

* The rotation will remain as it was, even though John Lackey, the scheduled Game 4 starter, was summoned to relieve Appier and stop the early bleeding in the third inning.

Lackey pitched 2 1/3 innings against the Giants, threw 32 pitches and is still scheduled to start that Game 4 on Wednesday, after Ramon Ortiz starts Game 3 on Tuesday night and before Jarrod Washburn returns in Game 5.

Of course, since they are carrying only 10 pitchers (the Giants have 11), and have yet to use Scot Shields in the postseason, the Angels don't have a lot of rotation maneuverability short of bringing back Washburn on three days' rest in Game 4.

Washburn admitted he was gassed when he last started on three days' rest in Game 4 of the division series against the New York Yankees.

In addition, there was an unspoken belief that Sunday's win and a split going into Pacific Bell Park was imperative.

Thus, when Appier came up lacking, the call went to Lackey, who said he will have no problem making his start in two days.

"I'll be just fine," he said, his normal bullpen session on Sunday having been canceled in case Appier struggled early, as he did.

"I only threw 30 or so pitches and I usually throw more in the pen," Lackey said.

Said Manager Mike Scioscia: "At that point in the game, we had a little freedom with John. We could give him a couple innings and still bring him back in [Game 4]. He probably could have gone a little more but not with a start in two days."

As Scioscia and his staff watched their 5-0, first-inning lead unravel and they were ultimately forced to remove Appier before he had an out in the third inning, there was some eventual thought given to bringing Appier right back in Game 4, but, the manager said, "right now it's Lackey."

"I'll take the ball whenever they give it to me," said the rookie who delivered seven shutout innings as the starter in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Minnesota Twins and three shutout relief innings in Game 3 of the division series against the Yankees.

He wasn't quite as sharp against the Giants as he was charged with two hits, a walk and two runs in his 2 1/3 innings, but "I was able to slow them down a little and Frankie slammed the door again."

He referred to Francisco Rodriguez, who dominated the Giants in three perfect relief innings, and improved to 5-0 in the continuation of an improbable saga.

Rodriguez and Lackey are simply unfazed by the postseason pressure, or as Lackey said of his first World Series assignment: "It helps to get my feet wet, to get a little experience before I have to start, but it's not much different than the LCS or division series. I mean, the stands can't get much fuller."

The Angels' ultimate victory removed some of the sting for Appier, who gave up five hits, five runs and three home runs in his two-plus innings.

"As horrible as I still feel," he said, "if we had lost I'd have beat myself up even more than I will anyway. I didn't have much life on my stuff, and they were all over every little mistake I made."

In the aftermath of an 0-3 September in which he gave up 26 hits and 14 runs in only 21 1/3 innings of his last four starts, Appier has made four postseason starts, lasting five, five, 5 1/3 and two innings. He has allowed 20 hits and 12 runs for a postseason earned-run average of 5.57. In his last eight starts, encompassing the September struggle, his ERA is 6.05.

Scioscia and pitching coach Bud Black have often said that Appier's mechanics are the most difficult on the staff to maintain, and the manager said after Sunday's survival that the veteran starter -- at 34 Appier was being counted on to lead the young rotation through the pressure of the postseason -- is simply missing his spots and making too many pitches, putting strain on the bullpen.

"We still feel he has enough in his tank to give us another start, and we're going to need it," Scioscia said. "We don't have a lot of options."

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