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World Series | ON BASEBALL

Baker Doesn't Feel so Lucky After This Letdown

October 27, 2002|Ross Newhan

A tape is playing softly in the visiting manager's office at Edison Field. It is a Dusty Baker favorite: John Lee Hooker from his album, "Mr. Lucky."

Mr. Lucky?

"Dammit," says Baker.

He says it no louder than the tape, but he repeats it as he works at his desk, writing a lineup for Game 7 of the World Series on a yellow pad, wishing it wasn't necessary, having done everything he thought was necessary to close out the Angels in Game 6, uncork the champagne, unplug the rally monkey.

"That's what we were thinking, that was the plan," Baker said.

"Obviously, they had something to say about it."

He meant the Angels, and what they had to say translated into the biggest comeback ever for a team facing World Series elimination.

What they had to say translated into a thunderous rally from a 5-0, seventh-inning deficit for a 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants as Baker called on his bullpen four times in the seventh and eighth innings in a futile attempt to stop the Angels where they were and avoid the uncertainty of a Game 7 in which he will bring back Livan Hernandez, who is 6-1 in the postseason but led the National League in losses and was ripped by the Angels in Game 3.

Of course, the Angels will be starting rookie John Lackey on three days rest, and Baker made note of that as he was asked if this Game 6 loss was one of the biggest hurts his Giants had ever suffered.

"In a long time," he said, "but this is the most resilient team I've ever been around. It always comes back from a tough loss, but dammit."

Three runs in the seventh and three in the eighth lifted the Angels to their most improbable victory in a season of improbable victories, and nothing Baker did could stop it, no one he called on had the answer.

Especially not Felix Rodriguez, Tim Worrell or Robbie Nen, the big three of his bullpen.

"I don't know who's been more dependable," Baker said, "but the Angels were on their last breath, trying to get to tomorrow, and I've always said it's tough to take the last breath out of a team. Now, we're both on our last breath."

The way it happened was that Russ Ortiz, bombed by the Angels in Game 2, came back to give Baker six shutout innings, working out of a threat in the sixth before he allowed singles to Troy Glaus and Brad Fullmer with one out in the seventh -- only the Angels' third and fourth hits -- and was replaced by right-hander Rodriguez.

"We were an inning ahead of ourselves with the bullpen," Baker acknowledged, "but Russ had done his job. We were hoping to get him through the seventh, but they had started to hit him in the sixth and I didn't think we could go any farther when they got those two hits in the seventh."

Rodriguez had a 3-and-2 count on Scott Spiezio, the first batter he faced, when Spiezio ignited the crowd and put the Angels back in the game with a three-run homer that landed in the first row of the field-level seats in right.

"The first row?" Baker said later. "Dammit."

Rodriguez struck out pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro for the second out, but Baker applied a quick hook. He brought in left-hander Scott Eyre to face Adam Kennedy, only to have Kennedy single, prompting Baker to return to his bullpen for right-hander Worrell, who ended the inning by getting David Eckstein on a fly to right.

It was 5-3 as Worrell returned for the eighth and was greeted by a Darin Erstad home run and singles by Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson. When Barry Bonds bobbled the Anderson hit in left, the Angels had runners at second and third, no outs and Glaus at the plate, and Baker was on his way to the mound again to bring in closer Nen, who would need six outs to finish this one successfully.

He didn't get close.

The count was 2 and 1 when Nen delivered a 91-mph fastball that had too much of the plate, and Glaus ripped it into left center to score the runs that tied and won the game, stunned the Giants and left Baker's 3-year-old son, the celebrated bat boy Darren, in tears.

"A lesson in life," his dad would say.

A lesson that was second-guessed in any way?

Not in the Giants clubhouse, where Jeff Kent said of Baker's relief moves: "We've been doing the same thing just about every game we've played in the postseason. This is not the regular season. In the playoffs, you don't give guys days off. You do everything you can to win every game."

Worrell agreed. He said fatigue wasn't a factor in the bullpen's failure.

"I can't remember anyone going through our bullpen like the Angels did tonight," he said. "We've gone from Felix to me to Robbie two-thirds of the season. There have been times I've put Robbie in worse situations than that with no outs and he's gotten out of it."

Not this time, not with those noise sticks pounding, the rally monkey jumping off the scoreboard and the Angels visualizing all those other times they've come back this season.

Can the Giants? Can their bullpen?

No problem, Baker kept saying as "Mr. Lucky" played in the background, and the manager paused to reflect on an amazing game and wondered if it would ultimately be categorized as a classic that would be replayed again and again on that TV network that features classics.

Did he realize it was one as it was happening.

"I realize it now," he said. "At the time I said, '--- that classic.' "

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