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Giants Lament Missed Chance

October 28, 2002|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

Their nightmare unfolded Sunday night in red-and-white horror while the stunned San Francisco Giants wondered about what could have been.

The Giants watched the Angels celebrate their first World Series championship with a 4-1 victory in Game 7 at Edison Field, completing a journey that they came within six outs of finishing first 24 hours earlier.

The Giants watched an elated red-clad crowd of 44,598 salute the Angels as a celebration raged on the field and throughout the stands, denying them an opportunity to host a similar bash for their equally long-suffering fans.

And the Giants watched as their dreamed slipped away after the Angels forced them to play a game they had hoped to avoid.

"I'd hate to say that we let it get way but ... it's definitely painful," right fielder Reggie Sanders said. "We had a great opportunity to try to shut them down the other day and we weren't able to do that.

"We had the opportunity to try and start all over and we felt good about that. We liked our chances and we believed we could do it.

"We really felt good but ... that was a big opportunity we missed."

As it turned out, too big to overcome.

The Giants squandered leads of 5-0 and 5-3 in the seventh and eighth innings of Game 6, losing, 6-5, and stirring clubhouse concern about providing another break for the opportunistic Angels.

"That was probably the biggest game for us," second baseman Jeff Kent said. "Was it the toughest? I don't know because we played seven games and every game you lose is tough.

"But to come here, be up that late in the ballgame and lose it ... it probably is the toughest. Losing means no shine at all to the season. We know how to come back after tough losses but ... that was a big opportunity."

The veteran Giants are not the type to panic, having been in tough spots through their National League pennant run. Manager Dusty Baker aligned the Series rotation so that right-hander Livan Hernandez would start Game 7, seemingly giving the Giants an edge.

As a 22-year-old rookie with the Florida Marlins in 1997, Hernandez was selected the most valuable player of the NL championship series and World Series. He entered this World Series 6-0 with a 2.84 earned-run average in eight postseason appearances, becoming one of only five pitchers to win his first six postseason decisions.

But that guy didn't show up.

After working only 3 2/3 innings in the Angels' 10-4 victory in Game 3, Hernandez gave up four hits and four runs in two innings in the decisive game. He had two of the Giants' four losses, a 14.29 ERA and was outdone Sunday by Angel rookie John Lackey.

Left-hander Kirk Rueter, relatively effective in a Game 4 start, pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Hernandez. Should a more rested Rueter have started Game 7?

"We have four starters we trust the same," Kent said. "We felt just as good about Livan as we would have with Kirk or any of our other guys, but anything can happen in the playoffs."

Owner Peter Magowan walked through the clubhouse thanking players for their efforts, fighting back tears as he exchanged handshakes and hugs.

"This is a game that will break your heart," said Magowan, facing many major off-season decisions.

"To come as close as we did [Saturday] night is something we're going to have to live with for quite some time.

"We'll live with it for as long as it will take to get back in this position and win a World Series.... You have to give the Angels a lot of credit for their comeback to get to this point, but this hurts. This could hurt for a long time."

And that's the Giants' biggest nightmare.

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