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World Series

Angels Will Go With Rookie

Lackey opens tonight, trying to become the first rookie starter to win a Series Game 7 in 93 years.

October 27, 2002|Bill Shaikin and Steve Springer | Times Staff Writers

So it comes down to the kid who had never pitched in the big leagues until the end of June against the postseason veteran who was threatening to snatch the title of Mr. October away from Reggie Jackson.

Angel Manager Mike Scioscia will give the ball to John Lackey to start tonight's seventh game of the World Series. San Francisco Giant Manager Dusty Baker will counter with right-hander Livan Hernandez.

Lackey will be attempting to become the first rookie in 93 years to win Game 7 of a World Series. "I've been thinking about playing in the seventh game of the World Series since I was a kid," he said. "Now I get a chance to actually do it."

Lackey was dreaming of just pitching in the big leagues until June 30 when he was called up from triple-A Salt Lake City to start the second game of a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers at Arlington. Lackey replaced a struggling Scott Schoeneweis, who was sent to the bullpen.

Lackey lost that night, giving up three runs seven innings in a game the Angels lost 3-2.

But he won the admiration of Scioscia and pitching coach Bud Black for his poise and command.

So even though the 23-year-old native of Abilene, Texas, was sent back to Salt Lake immediately after the game, it was only a temporary demotion. He wound up the regular season going 9-4 with a 3.66 ERA.

He lost once in his final seven starts of the regular season. He won the game that clinched the Angels' first playoff berth in 16 years, stopping a four-game losing streak in the process.

In his first playoff start, he threw seven shutout innings in the league championship series. In Game 4 of the World Series, he pitched four shutout innings, then gave up three runs in a fifth inning that started with a chop single and a bunt single.

So while the Angels partially chose Lackey over Ramon Ortiz to start tonight's game because of the wrist tendinitis hampering Ortiz, that is not the main reason. Lackey simply won the assignment, the last and best one of an amazing rookie season.

"You couldn't ask for a better man to be out there than Lackey," closer Troy Percival said. "He's not scared of anything."

Lackey becomes the first rookie to start a Game 7 since Jaret Wright, who grew up in Anaheim and whose father, Clyde, pitched for the Angels. In Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, pitching for the Cleveland Indians, Wright took a 2-0 lead into the seventh inning. The Indians lost, 3-2, in 11 innings.

Lackey is believed to be the eighth rookie to start Game 7.

No rookie has won Game 7 since Babe Adams did so for the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ortiz, who will be available in relief today, acknowledged that "I might not be 100%" and said he supported the decision.

"Lackey's feeling good," Ortiz said. "I'm happy. I want to win. I don't mind. It's not my decision."

As for Hernandez, he was 6-0 in the postseason until he ran into the Angel hitting machine in Game 3 of this World Series, getting bombed for six runs, five earned, in three and two-thirds innings.

While Baker is starting the Cuban native, he's hardly telling the rest of his rotation to take the night off.

"We fell comfortable with Livan," Baker said, "but we're going to go with everybody. You know, [Jason] Schmidt can be available, Kirk Rueter can be available. All the guys in our bullpen can be available."

Tired arms? Pitch counts? In a seventh game, adrenaline counts most of all.



Rookie on the Mound

John Lackey will have the opportunity to become the first rookie pitcher since Babe Adams in 1909 to win Game 7 of the World Series. How rookie starters have fared in seventh games:

*--* Year Pitcher Team Opponent Result 1909 Babe Adams Pittsburgh Detroit W, 8-0 1912 Hugh Bedient Boston Red Sox New York Giants No decision 1947 Spec Shea New York Yankees Brooklyn No decision 1952 Joe Black Brooklyn New York Yankees L, 4-2 1964 Mel Stottlemyre New York Yankees St. Louis L, 7-5 1987 Joe Magrane St. Louis Minnesota No decision 1997 Jaret Wright Cleveland Florida No decision


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