By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
OCT. 24, 2002
ANAHEIM -- The Angels will have you believe they have the San Francisco Giants right where they want 'em.
The Angels trail the Giants in the World Series three games to two and face the possibility of watching the Giants celebrate on the Edison Field infield tomorrow if the Angels can't win Game 6 and force a seventh and deciding game on Sunday.
Though the World Series is new to the Angels, being counted out isn't. They are used to being the underdog and this season have thrived with the tag.
``From the standpoint of pressure and all that, I look at it that the pressure's on (the Giants),'' Angels right fielder Tim Salmon said. ``They have one game. They're trying to get one game. Our backs are against the wall now. We're going to come out fighting. We've been in this situation all year long. We're actually more familiar being in this position where we're kind of the underdog, I guess, as a club.''
It's difficult to imagine a team that has won 108 games this season -- 99 regular season and nine postseason -- as the underdog. But in World Series history, only 19 of 58 teams trailing 3-2 in the series have come back to win it all.
Recent history, though, suggests the Angels have a good chance because the final two games of the series are in their home ballpark. Of the last seven World Series teams down 3-2 but playing the final two at home, six have come back to win Games 6 and 7 to win the series.
``Our guys are confident,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. ``I think anyone writing us off in this series is a little premature. You need four wins to clinch this series. I would hope the Giants feel they have an advantage, but I know (Giants manager) Dusty (Baker) won't let them feel they have an advantage.''
In order for the Angels to have a chance, though, they need a better performance from starting pitcher Kevin Appier, who has gone from bad to worse as the postseason has progressed.
Appier is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in four postseason starts, including his one World Series start in Game 2 when he allowed five runs in two-plus innings. Scioscia said there is an explanation for that one.
``I think Appier needs to get more into his game a little bit and maybe block out a little bit, as much as he can, (Giants) hitters' tendencies,'' Scioscia said. ``I think you're at a point where a pitcher starts to pitch too much to an opposing ballclub, sometimes it takes him out of his strengths. I think Kevin fell victim a little bit to that.''
Appier, though, said all of his pregame preparation was needed.
``Actually, it was just the same level of preparation,'' Appier said. ``I wasn't as familiar with them as I was other teams that I had faced during the year. So it took a little more tape-watching and scouting-report stuff to get to that same level.''
Appier said he has corrected a minor mechanical flaw he had during Game 2.
``It was very slight,'' he said. ``I didn't notice it at all until watching the tapes. ... You know, I feel strong.
Hopefully, my stuff has really good life and my command's a lot better.''
If not, Scioscia will be quick to go the bullpen. Ramon Ortiz skipped his scheduled workout Friday and will be available out of the bullpen tomorrow, all but confirming the report in this newspaper Friday that John Lackey will start Game 7 if the Angels win tomorrow.
The Giants' starter for Game 6 is Russ Ortiz, who had even more trouble than Appier in Game 2. Ortiz gave up seven runs and nine hits in 1 2/3 innings. The Angels offense would like to match that success and score early in the game to take some pressure off their beleaguered pitching staff.
``Our offense is focused on manufacturing runs and keep the team in the game,'' Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. ``It starts with (David) Eckstein and (Darin) Erstad getting things going and getting some runs on the board. But there have been many times we haven't scored first and we've been able to come back.''
In order for the Angels to win their first-ever World Series, their comeback must start tomorrow.