Sunday, October 27, 2002
World Series diary: Game 7
By Rob Neyer
John Lackey delivers the first pitch of the 35th winner-take-all game in World Series history.
You know, Lackey just might be uniquely suited to shutting down the Giants, just in terms of his stuff. The Giants didn't do all that well against right-handed pitchers this season, because of course their lineup is filled mostly with right-handed hitters.
The Giants do have one awesome weapon against typical right-handed pitchers, but it seems that Lackey's not your typical right-handed pitcher. He throws a great cutter, and this season he held left-handed hitters to a .208 batting average and a .239 slugging average; he gave up just one home run to a left-handed hitter in 18 starts.
Last night, the Giants bucked history with Shawon Dunston. Tonight, they'll have to do it against John Lackey.
David Eckstein just ran the Angels out of a big inning, getting nailed at second base after straying too far on a line drive to Lofton (who did not misplay the ball).
It's probably not something Eckstein would have done during the regular season, but players tend to get somewhat ... excited in a game like this.
The Angels might have lost that battle, but it looks like they're in good shape for the war. Lackey pitched well in the top of the first, and in the bottom of the inning Livan Hernandez looked like a man who will spend most of this game as a well-paid cheerleader.
This afternoon I was fooling around with a method to "rate" World Series games (though, come to think of it, the method "works" for any game). And I'm sure you'll be thrilled to know that after two innings, this Game 7 already has jumped into a tie for No. 27 on the all-time list, ahead of 1909, 1985, 1945 and 1956.
How does the method work? I'll save the details for later, but basically I award points for innings after which the game is tied, innings after which the game is close, lead changes, extra innings, tight finishes, and "special circumstances."
This Game 7 has been tied at the end of both innings, resulting in a "Drama Score" of 7. If anybody's interested, I'll post updates on this as the game moves along. Because isn't it always better to rely on a convoluted formula rather than what you're seeing with your own eyes?
I'm with McCarver and Buck. With two Angels on base, nobody out, and Hernandez not exactly fooling anybody, why isn't somebody warming up in the bullpen. Is Dusty saving his bullpen for Game 8?
An inning ago, Fox ran one of their instant polls ... "With the score tied 1-1, which team has the momentum?"
The right answer, of course, is that nobody had the momentum. In baseball, momentum's just a trifle compared to the next line drive.
Garret Anderson just whacked a line drive into the right-field corner, with the bases loaded, and now it's 4-1. If the Giants lose, I think Baker will be faulted for leaving Hernandez in the game for at least one batter too long. But I think he also should be faulted for letting Hernandez pitch in Game 7 at all. He was, pretty clearly, the Giants' fourth-best starter this season. So if he had to start, he should have started Game 4, and Game 4 only.
Thank you, Chad Zerbe, for keeping this game close. The last truly awful Game 7 was in 1985, but I was pulling for the Royals so I didn't mind so much. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1956, when the Yankees led the Dodgers 4-0 after three innings, 5-0 after four, and 9-0 after seven. We've been waiting all year for a great finish to the 2002 season, and so we'd like to see the game within reach for at least another few innings.
It took four weeks and I don't know how many postseason games, but I finally heard something interesting from the microphones in the dugout.
John Lackey held the Giants in the top of the fifth, and after reaching the dugout he told Angels pitching coach Bud Black, "I felt like I threw more than I did, because I was concentrating so much on every pitch."
This ties into something that we've been saying for years ... It's a lot harder to pitch in 2002 than it was in 1962, because it's more stressful when every pitch is important. McCarver connected Lackey's comment to the pressure of pitching in the World Series, and of course there's something to that. But it's generally more stressful to pitch in this era, because so many hitters are capable of hitting the ball over the fence.
Well, Lackey's been removed after five solid innings.
And you know what's hard to believe? If the Angels don't blow this lead, Lackey will become only the second rookie to win a World Series Game 7, and the first since Pittsburgh's Babe Adams shut out the Tigers in 1909.
Of course, not many rookies have been allowed to start a Game 7; Lackey's the eighth. The first seven recorded one victory (Adams), two losses (Joe Black in 1952, Mel Stottlemyre in 1964), and four no-decisisions. The rookies have generally pitched well, with only Spec Shea (Yankees, 1947) taking it on the chin.
All right, I promised an update on how this Game 7 is faring against its predecessors, Drama Rating-wise (and a few of you did evince at least a moderate interest).
If the game ended now, with the score 4-1 after six innings, 2002's Game 7 would tie for 24th with the Game 7's of 1964 and 1986. If the final score is closer or (especially) if the Giants come back to gain at least a tie, this Game 7 will obviously move up a few spots. But it's going to have a tough time breaking into the top 20.
Tim Salmon just got rung up on a close pitch.
He wasn't happy, but the umpires have done a great job behind the plate in this Series. Every time somebody's had a gripe and we've see a replay from the behind-home camera, the umpire was proved right. Or at least every time that I've been paying attention.
Major League Baseball is supposed to assign postseason assignments based on merit rather than seniority. I don't know how closely they're sticking to that, but it looks to me like they're definitely on the right track.
As a fan, I've got a rooting interest here. I'm rooting for Jeff Kent to somehow get on base, and then for Barry Bonds to hit the ball 700 feet.
Francisco Rodriguez had a different interest, and struck out Kent. And so Bonds comes to the plate with the bases empty for the fourth time tonight.
This game's not quite over, but already I'm getting e-mail messages arguing that even if the Giants lose, Barry Bonds should be named MVP of the World Series.
First off, it's not going to happen. Bobby Richardson of the 1960 Yankees is the only losing player to have been named MVP of the World Series, and I think it's happened only once in Super Bowl history.
But should it happen?
Yes, of course it should. Glaus has been excellent. He's batted .386 with three home runs, eight RBI, and a team-best 1313 OPS. But Bonds has been far better than excellent. He's been the defining force of the Series from the beginning. In addition to his four homers, Bonds has drawn 13 walks, and it's not his fault that there wasn't enough good hitting either before him or after him.
He won't win it, but then, nobody remembers who wins those awards anyway. What's important, at least when you're talking about Bonds, is that nobody will ever again accuse him of choking in October.
It wasn't a bad Game 7, but neither was it a good one. What we'll remember from this World Series is Francisco Rodriguez's amazing stuff, Barry Bonds wishing for a few more pitches to hit, and that improbable Game 6.
And finally, I want to offer my congratulations to every Angels fan who has been there through the good times and the bad.