By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
OCT. 12, 2002
ALCS GAME 4
TWINS AT ANGELS
ANAHEIM -- What seemed so improbable for a franchise bereft of success is a single victory away.
After winning a club-record 99 games during the regular season and dispatching of the defending American League champion New York Yankees in the Division Series, the Angels took a 3-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series with an impressive 7-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins Saturday night before 44,830 at Edison Field.
A win in Game 5 will send the Angels to their first World Series in the history of the 42-year-old franchise.
``It's all blurry to me, or dreamlike,'' Angels right fielder Tim Salmon said. ``The last couple weeks have been so exciting, there's been so much energy. And we're experiencing everything for the first time. I've been in the league 10 years and I feel like a rookie.''
The Angels beat the Twins Saturday with two legitimate rookies in starting pitcher John Lackey and reliever Frankie Rodriguez. Lackey, 23, pitched the game of his life, shutting out the Twins on three hits through seven innings. He struck out seven and walked none.
Rodriguez, the 20-year-old phenom who began the season in Double-A, did his usual number, pitching a scoreless eighth inning.
The offense took care of the rest, wearing down Twins starter Brad Radke before beating up on the Twins bullpen in a five-run eighth inning to put the game away. It was the Angels' third consecutive win since losing Game 1, pushing them to the brink of baseball's greatest showcase.
``Somehow we've got to take (Game 5) as if it was one of all the other games we've played,'' Angels shortstop David Eckstein said. ``If there's too much emotion, you can't keep your focus. But the reason we're in this situation is because we've been able to deal with situations like this all year. It feels like we've been playing playoff games since the All-Star break.''
Saturday's win came on the 16-year anniversary of the club's infamous Game 5 loss to the Boston Red Sox, which featured the Dave Henderson homer off Donnie Moore, so the Angels need no reminders that the series is anything but finished.
A loss in Game 5 and the Angels must return to Minnesota for Game 6, and potentially, Game 7.
``One more win and we're in,'' said Angels catcher Bengie Molina, who drove in two-runs with a triple in the eighth inning outburst. ``Obviously, we don't want to go back to their home. That motivates us.''
The Angels' mantra of playing one game at a time will be tested in Game 5 like never before, but they insist they'll approach it the same as ever.
``We've been through too much together to get too excited,'' Angels center fielder Darin Erstad said. ``We know the Twins aren't going to quit. We haven't won anything yet.''
The Twins have been in a do-or-die situation this season already, trailing the Oakland A's 2 games to 1 before winning the final two games of their Division Series.
``I think they're going to come out madder than hell,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of his team. ``I can promise you this, the Minnesota Twins will show up tomorrow. We're going to try to get this thing back to the Metrodome and we'll go from there. We've had our backs to the wall, been in holes all year long, I promise you we'll come out and play baseball.''
They played good baseball Saturday as well, as the game was scoreless through six innings. Lackey got through the top of the seventh with the shutout intact when the Angels offense got rolling in the bottom of the inning.
Erstad led off with a bloop single to center. On a 3-1 pitch to Salmon, Erstad stole second, then went to third on catcher A.J. Pierzynski's throwing error.
``(Angels manager Mike Scioscia) likes to get guys in motion,'' Erstad said. ``I got the sign that I had the green light. If I got a good jump, I go. I got a good jump, and I went.''
Salmon walked and Garret Anderson popped out, but Troy Glaus drove in the first run of the game with a single to left. Scott Spiezio doubled home another run for a 2-0 lead.
Against the Twins bullpen in the eighth, the Angels scored five runs, all with two outs. Anderson singled home one, Brad Fullmer doubled home two and Molina tripled home two more.
``Who knows if we'll ever be back here again?'' Erstad said. ``That's why we're enjoying it. Win or lose, when we look back at this are we going to ask, `Were we tight? Did we press?' Or are we going to relax and enjoy it?''
ANAHEIM -- The Angels and Minnesota Twins will play Game 5 featuring a repeat of the Game 1 matchup between Angels starter Kevin Appier and Twins starter Joe Mays. Mays won the duel and the Twins won the game, 2-1.
Mays gave up only one unearned run and four hits in eight innings, so he said he isn't about to change much in his gameplan.
``It makes it easier when you're able to get ahead (in the count), throw the ball over the plate and keep the ball down and make the hitters make adjustments as opposed to you making adjustments,'' he said. ``Hopefully, I'm able to do that and just go out there, throw the ball over the plate, allow my team to play some defense behind me and hopefully we can push a bouple runs across the board.''
Said Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy said the thought of being so close to the World Series is not foremost on his mind.
``Mays handed it to us a week ago,'' he said. ``We're worried about him, we're not worried about the World Series.''
Appier had to battle for every out he got in Game 1, needing 94 pitches to get through five innings. He allowed two runs and five hits.
``The longer you see them, you can still possibly pick up things,'' Appier said of watching the Twins the past four games. ``I've learned a couple things, but obviously, it's not something I can tell you.''
Troy Glaus went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts (both looking) in Game 1. So Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher spoke with Glaus about being more aggressive, but he didn't stop there.
``I had the press go after him and ask him why he was taking those pitches,'' Hatcher said. ``I knew that would fire him up.''
Since Game 1, Glaus is 6 for 10 with two walks, a double, triple, home run, and four runs scored.
In the eighth inning of both Game 3 and Game 4, Scioscia went to Frankie Rodriguez over Ben Weber. The eighth inning had been Weber's all season as he was closer Troy Percival's primary set-up man. But with Rodriguez pitching like he has, Scioscia didn't hesitate to adjust.
``The way Frankie's throwing the ball, certainly he's stepped up to a prominent set-up role for us,'' Scioscia said.
Rodriguez, who has pitched in only five regular-season games in the majors, now has five postseason games to his credit. He's 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA, with 15 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings. He's given up only four hits, one of which was the two-run home run by Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano.
Second baseman Benji Gil has made two errors in the playoffs while getting the starts when the club is facing a left-handed pitcher. Though Adam Kennedy is better defensively than Gil, Scioscia said he'll stick with the platoon.
``Benji had a couple of rough spots on double plays, but I think he's done a terrific job at second base for us,'' he said. ``We have confidence in Benji and it allows us to keep the (hitting) matchups alive.''
Through eight postseason games, Kennedy is hitting .278 (5 for 18); Gil is hitting .571 (4 for 7).
Going back to the eighth inning of Game 2, Angels pitchers have gone 19 consecutive innings without allowing a walk. They have walked a total of four in the four games of the series so far.
California Governor Gray Davis watched Saturday's game from Disney CEO Michael Eisner's suite. During the game, a plane flying with a banner that read, ``Vote Bill Simon for Governor! Go Angels!'' flew over the ballpark. Also in Eisner's suite were actor John Travolta and director Ron Howard. ... Jackie Autry, wife of former Angels owner Gene Autry, threw out the ceremonial first pitch Saturday.