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Game 1: Great Bonds beginning


Special to ESPN.com

Oct. 19

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- There could not have been a better way to start the World Series than to have Barry Bonds hit a home run in his first at-bat. Are his last two seasons the greatest in baseball history or are Babe Ruth's 1920-21 seasons? People could argue that forever, but his homer should remove any clouds that had still hung above him.

Bonds now has hit more home runs (23) against left-handed pitchers in one season than any left-handed hitter in baseball history. But an underestimated thing about the Giants is their overall ability against left-handers. After Aug. 20, they went 9-3 to the end of the regular season against lefties, beating Randy Johnson, Odalis Perez and Al Leiter. And in the postseason they have won games against Tom Glavine, Chuck Finley and now Jarrod Washburn.

The Giants do a lot of subtle things, and no one illustrated how they hang in against lefties more than J.T. Snow, who had three great at-bats. He had a seven-pitch at-bat before grounding out in the second inning. Then he had a nine-pitch at-bat before walking in the fourth. They helped set up his third at-bat in the sixth inning, when Washburn went over 100 pitches. Snow stayed with the pitch and went the other way for a two-run home run.

Plus, I've never seen a play quite like the one Snow made in foul territory in the fifth inning -- falling down, getting back up and catching the ball. It looked like he was in slow motion. His presense of mind was unbelievable, the way he was so cool about pulling himself up to make the play. The track where he fell was part of the ballpark's renovation, and afterward Snow made comments about how the field was dangerous and such a disgrace. His comments were obviously a dig at the Angels management after he was traded.

Both starting pitchers, Washburn and Jason Schmidt, were good, but both teams had great at-bats against them. Washburn made a few mistakes, the last one coming to Snow on his 106th pitch, and he was out of there.

Schmidt's stuff was good, but not great, and the Angels battled him. They don't swing and miss much, so they gave Schmidt trouble. David Eckstein fought off balls in the third inning and was able to move Adam Kennedy to third base on a grounder to second.

Schmidt also made great pitches. He went in on Darin Erstad and then got him to chase a 97-mph fastball out of the strike zone with a runner on third and one out in the third inning. Tim Salmon couldn't quite get the bat head when he popped to Snow in foul territory. And then Schmidt showed tremendous guts when he was able to throw a split to Garret Anderson.

And how important are the bullpens? Combined, the two bullpens got 20 outs and gave up no hits. Felix Rodriguez, who's allowed one run in eight playof appearances, was hitting 98. And then Tim Worrell was a great contrast to Schmidt and Rodriguez with his backdoor sliders. Speaking of big pitches, Worrell made a huge pitch to strike out Troy Glaus to start the eighth.

The Angels have to win Game 2. They can't go down 2-0. It would be practically impossible for the Angels to come back since Pac Bell Park gives the Giants the biggest home-field advantage in baseball because they pitch great at home.

But the Angels didn't use Francisco Rodriguez or Troy Percival in Game 1. Their big bullpen guns will be ready to pitch in Game 2. Scott Schoeneweis, who only threw four pitches and walked Bonds, can also come back and pitch. Brendan Donnelly could probably pitch every day until spring training.

People may be scared about Kevin Appier, but he needs to get the Angels to the fifth or sixth inning, when they can wheel all the bullpen arms out to the mound.

The Angels are resolute. I love when I hear Tim Salmon say, "We know we will come back and play well tomorrow."

Game 1, though, showed how close the two teams are. The way it would become a great series is if it goes seven games and Bonds hits about five home runs. He's already on his way there.

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