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Game 2: Rodriguez to the rescue
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Mike Scioscia managed Game 2 as if the Angels absolutely had to win. He was in a desperate situation; they couldn't lose and go to Pac Bell Park down two games to none. With the Angels' bullpen beaten up, Scioscia had to throw John Lackey, the probable Game 4 starter who may now have to start Game 5 instead.
And then he brought in Francisco Rodriguez, who is not supposed to enter the game in the sixth inning. Rodriguez not only completely stopped the Giants, but he also threw only 26 pitches in three innings, 22 of them for strikes.
His first inning of work was such a statement, coming against Rich Aurilia, Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds. Fastball, slider, slider -- Aurilia's gone. Fastball, fastball, slider -- Kent's gone. And then he threw an incredible cutter in on Bonds' hands, and he grounded into an easy out at first base. It was an important inning, allowing the Angels to manufacture a run to tie the game and then to win it later on Tim Salmon's home run.
The Angels didn't strike out in the game, indicating great situational hitting, and they wore on Felix Rodriguez mentally with quality at-bats. After David Eckstein singled in the eighth inning, Darin Erstad had an eight-pitch at-bat, fouling off fastballs, before Rodriguez -- who was throwing gas -- gave up the home-run ball on the first pitch to Salmon.
Salmon may draw criticism for what he doesn't do, but he hit a huge home run in the final series against Oakland, hitting a 98-mph fastball from Billy Koch in the 10th inning of a 0-0 game. He has the ability to look for certain pitches and then hit it out of the park when he gets the bat head on the ball.
And speaking of home runs, Salmon said he had never seen anyone hit the ball where Barry Bonds hit his ninth-inning home run at Edison Field. I heard the ratings were down around 10 percent for Game 1, and New York is the most provincial city in the U.S., but anybody who likes sports should be watching Bonds in the World Series.
I love the respect other players have for Bonds. When he hit the bomb off Jarrod Washburn in Game 1, Washburn just laughed. And Troy Percival was laughing after Game 2. Afterward, Percival said he was going to throw it down the middle and see how far Bonds would hit it. Pretty far.
Bonds also walked three times, but he created rallies out of the walks and scored three runs. People talk about World Series pressure, but Bonds said once he got his 10-year nemesis, Atlanta, off his back, he could relax and have a good time. And he has shown it. Bonds will have a monster series, no matter what.
From the ESPN set beyond the left-field fence, I have been able to watch Bonds in the field. At one time he was one of the greatest defensive left fielders in the history of baseball. He's not anymore at age 38, but watching him I am astounded at the jump he gets on balls. It's hard for a left fielder to get a jump because he doesn't see the ball directly off the bat the way a center fielder does. It looks as if Bonds is in his first step before the ball hits the bat. His skills are both subtle and immense.
The Giants have to come away from Anaheim feeling great. Reggie Sanders, who had a bad series in St. Louis, has two home runs among his four hits and has made at least three great defensive plays in right field. David Bell is swinging the bat well, as is J.T. Snow, who is hitting better than anyone but Bonds for the second straight series. Jeff Kent hit a home run. Plus, Chad Zerbe saved the Giants bullpen with four innings.
Opposing teams tend to struggle at Pac Bell Park, which was home to the fewest home runs in the major leagues this season. The Giants players will say they watch the other team take batting practice. And because the ball doesn't go anywhere, the opposing players gets angry. But the way the Angels hit line drives all over the place and are a gap team, maybe they will translate to Pac Bell Park better than other teams.
Although the starters haven't gone longer than 5 2/3 innings, they should be able to pitch deeper into the game at Pac Bell. But no one knows what either team will get from Ramon Ortiz or Livan Hernandez in Game 3. The game could be 0-0, or we could have the type of night when Chad Zerbe or Brendan Donnelly enters in the third inning. Zerbe did a great job Sunday. I love stories like his. Like Donnelly and Ben Weber, players who have been kicked around, Zerbe was a minor-league free agent out of the Dodgers' organization.
So far we've seen two entertaining, one-run games, at least 10 outstanding defensive plays (two by Sanders, two by Adam Kennedy, one by David Bell and one by Eckstein in Game 2 alone), both teams putting the ball in play, Bonds being Bonds and Francisco Rodriguez on the biggest stage. After two games, the series has a chance to be one of the all-time greats.
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