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Best of Kevin

Rotation has been hit hard, but with Appier starting in a must-win situation, Angels desperately need ...

October 26, 2002|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

The afternoon was dark and drizzly at Edison Field on Friday, the kind of gray day appropriate as the backdrop to an Alfred Hitchcock film. Cue the ominous music. Creep to the edge of your seat. Something bad might happen sometime soon.

The Angels must win at Anaheim today, in Game 6 of the World Series, or the San Francisco Giants will be champions. If the Angels win today, they must also win Sunday, in what would be a winner-take-all finale, and then they will be champions.

This thriller is not so much about whodunit than about who-can-do-it. The Angels can generate enough offense to win these two games, but how do they propose getting the necessary 54 outs from a tattered and battered pitching staff?

Kevin Appier starts today. He started Game 2 and got six outs. Ramon Ortiz, bothered by tendinitis in his right wrist, could make his first major league relief appearance today. Rookie John Lackey, who got 15 outs as the Game 4 starter, could start on three days' rest Sunday.

Closer Troy Percival, who has not gotten more than four outs in any game this season, could be asked to get six today or Sunday, or both. Ace Jarrod Washburn, who got 12 outs as the Game 5 starter, could pitch in relief Sunday.

Angel Manager Mike Scioscia even broached the idea of using reliever Scott Schoeneweis as Sunday's starter. Schoeneweis has not gotten more than six outs in a game since his removal from the starting rotation in June.

"I'm confident," Scioscia said Friday. "They're going to have to get 54 outs too -- well, 27 at a time, hoping they lose. But it works both ways. They're going to have to shut us down. They're going to have every bit the challenge we're going to have."

Indeed, a shutout for either side is about as likely as a rainout. The Angels are batting .328 in the World Series, the Giants .308. The Giants have hit 25 postseason home runs, the Angels 22, the two highest totals in major league history.

And Russ Ortiz, who starts today for San Francisco, gave up nine hits -- and got only five outs -- when he started Game 2 against Appier.

"We're not down three games. We're not down two. We're only down one," Angel hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. "To say there's a lot of momentum there, there isn't. If we can tie it up, it's going to Game 7 on our home court....

"We've got the fans. We've got the monkey. We've got the sausage bangers. We've got it all going for us."

With all due respect, the Angels do not have outstanding starting pitching going for them right now, or even adequate starting pitching. In 14 postseason games, the Angel starter has finished the sixth inning three times.

"They haven't pitched deep enough into a game," Scioscia said. "If they don't do that, your bullpen is taxed a little more. Things can get thin."

With Washburn, the Angels are shocked if he does not pitch into the sixth inning. With Appier, they are surprised and pleased if he does.

Although the Giants dismissed him after two innings in Game 2, Appier pitched five, five and 5 1/3 innings in each of his three previous playoff starts.

"They weren't textbook, but they were good," Scioscia said.

The Angels won two of those games and lost the other, 2-1. So, in a decision resulting from equal parts faith and necessity, Appier starts today.

If he can pitch five innings, the Angels would be happy to take their chances splitting the final four between Francisco Rodriguez and Percival. But the Angels will not hesitate to yank him and replace him with Ortiz, or with Schoeneweis.

Schoeneweis, considered the Angels' antidote to Barry Bonds as their lone left-handed reliever, has not been used in that role since Game 1. With the Angels increasingly content to walk Bonds, they need not save Schoeneweis for a late-inning duel with the San Francisco slugger.

Scioscia floated the idea of starting Schoeneweis on Sunday, then downplayed the idea as "unlikely." Unless the Angels need to use Ortiz and Lackey to win today, which would likely mean an extra-inning game, Schoeneweis would figure to be used as a reliever Sunday.

So would Washburn, but Scioscia dismissed any thought of Washburn starting on two days' rest as "a longshot" that could jeopardize his health and his career.

For the Angels to win these two games, and with them the World Series championship, they might use relievers as starters and starters as relievers, in permutations so numerous the mind recoils. Good thing, then, that Scioscia gave his players Friday off and told them to flip their brain switches off.

"You could see a little bit of drainage there," Hatcher said. "Just being able to stay home and turn their cellular phones off and watch 'Gilligan's Island' -- getting away will be a good relief for these guys."

In the first five innings today, for the Angels, no relief would be better than good relief.


The Series

Game 1--Oct. 19 at Edison Field

San Francisco 4, Angels 3

Game 2--Oct. 20 at Edison Field

Angels 11, San Francisco 10

Game 3--Oct. 22 at San Francisco

Angels 10, San Francisco 4

Game 4--Oct. 23 at San Francisco

San Francisco 4, Angels 3

Game 5--Oct. 24 at San Francisco

San Francisco 16, Angels 4

Game 6--Today at Edison Field

5 p.m., Channel 11

Game 7--Sunday at Edison Field*

5 p.m., Channel 11 if necessary

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