Batting around

After the Angels' second straight 10-run outburst, a tight World Series is looking like a potential blowout.


King Kaufman
October 23, 2002 11:00PM (UTC)

Imagine the Anaheim Angels' offense if they didn't leave so many guys on base. The Angels scored 10 and left 15 more stranded Tuesday as they pulverized the San Francisco Giants 10-4 at Pac Bell Park in San Francisco. The game, which gave the Angels a 2-1 lead in the World Series, wasn't as close as the score makes it sound.

On Sunday in Anaheim, the Angels collected 16 hits and beat the Giants 11-10 in a rock-'em, sock-'em classic that went down to the last batter. Tuesday they got 16 more hits, but this time their boot was on the Giants' neck from the third inning on. They batted around in the third and fourth innings -- the first team ever to send nine batters up in consecutive innings in the World Series -- and built an 8-2 lead. The Giants wiggled a little when Rich Aurilia and Barry Bonds homered in the fifth for 8-4, but there were no further signs of life from the home team.

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"They've been hitting the last two games," Giants manager Dusty Baker said of the Angels. "Hopefully, they've hit themselves out."

Well, that's one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that one of Baker's pitchers had better figure out a way to get these guys out or the Giants are going to be spared a trip back to Anaheim for Games 6 and 7. Russ Ortiz took a pounding in Game 2; Livan Hernandez was the victim in Game 3.

If you didn't know who played where, you'd think the Angels' roster was designed for Pac Bell Park, in the same way the New York Yankees load their club with left-handed power hitters to swing at the short porch in Yankee Stadium's right field, or the Boston Red Sox like to have right-handed sluggers for Fenway Park. Pac Bell is a pitcher's park, with a vast outfield and air currents that knock down fly balls hit toward right.

The Angels were fourth in the 14-team American League in scoring this year but only tied for 10th in home runs. They also struck out less than any other team, by a lot. They put the ball in play and get a bunch of hits. Pac Bell's gaping power alleys are made for them. Troy Glaus, their biggest and hottest slugger, hit a towering shot to deepest center field Tuesday that would have been a home run in most parks but died in Kenny Lofton's glove. That was an anomaly. Scott Spiezio's two-run triple, a line drive that then rolled neatly between Lofton and right fielder Reggie Sanders almost to the wall, about six time zones from home plate, can stand as Anaheim's emblematic hit for the evening.

"We have a lot of guys that are gap hitters," Spiezio said after the game. No kidding, said the Giants' pitchers, rubbing their necks, sore from snapping their heads around to watch hits sail by.

If there was any consolation for Giants fans in Tuesday game it was that the lopsided score allowed them to watch Bonds hit. Angels starter Ramon Ortiz struck him out on three pitches with a man on and a 4-1 lead in the third inning. In the fifth he faced Bonds again with a runner on base, this time with an 8-2 lead. Bonds homered to center field, his third home run of the Series and his seventh in 13 postseason games.

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If the game had been close, Bonds would likely have been walked in both of those situations, as he was in the first inning with runners on the corners and one out. That move paid off for the Angels. The Giants got one run out of the bases-loaded deal, on a weak groundout by Benito Santiago. J.T. Snow then grounded out to end the inning.

The ability of the hitters behind Bonds to make opponents pay for walking him has been the key to the Giants' postseason success thus far, but in Games 2 and 3 it's become something of a moot point because the Angels' offense has been so tremendous.

The question now becomes: Can the Angels keep up this scoring onslaught? Or, stated from the San Francisco point of view: Can Kirk Rueter, the Giants' Game 4 starter, stop the bleeding? Rueter's one of those "crafty left-handers" -- you know, the kind who look like they're throwing slop up there, and you're sure that if you could just find your old bat you could hit some line drives off him, but when he's on, big-league hitters go down meekly, at least for five or six innings.

Rueter, a lifelong fourth or fifth starter, was the Giants' most consistent pitcher this season. He was cuffed around for 11 runs in eight innings by the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals in his first two playoff starts, but came back to throw six shutout innings at the Cards in the pennant-clinching game. The Giants' hopes of not getting blown away are resting on his unimposing shoulders.

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The Angels' Game 4 starter is John Lackey, a big Texas right-hander who was called up in late June and who turns 24 on Wednesday. Lackey handcuffed the Minnesota Twins for seven innings and got the win in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, but otherwise has been used sparingly in the postseason, with one three-inning shutout relief appearance against the Yankees and a semi-emergency outing in Game 2 against the Giants, when he gave up two runs in two and two-thirds innings, the runs scoring after he'd been lifted. He went 9-4 in the regular season.

The Angels lost the opener against both the Yankees and Twins, then won both series without losing again. They'll do that a third straight time if they keep hitting like this. They hit lefties well, so Rueter's not the guy to strike fear in their bats. And at Pac Bell Park, they're feeling right at home.


King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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