Friday, October 18, 2013

By Joe Haakenson, Contributor -  


ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia rushed to get dressed and go home Friday afternoon. After all, he has a big day ahead of him tomorrow.

It starts with his son Matt's flag-football game at 9 a.m. Then it's on to Edison Field for Game 1 of the 2002 World Series between his Angels and the San Francisco Giants.

To everyone else it's not just another day, not just another game. But Scioscia's approach is the same as it's been since pitchers and catchers reported for spring training in February, and that's how he wants his players to look at it.

``There's no such thing as stepping up your game in the World Series,'' Scioscia said. ``It's executing the same way you did all year long to get to this level. Our guys are in their element when they're playing their style of game, and that's what you want them to bring.''

That philosophy has worked in Anaheim this season. The Angels won 99 games during the regular season to earn the wild-card spot. They beat the New York Yankees in the Division Series and the Minnesota Twins in the American League Championship Series to reach the World Series for the first time in club history.

``We've trained our minds since day-one of spring training to approach everything the same regardless of the situation,'' Angels center fielder Darin Erstad said. ``It didn't matter if we were playing a division-leader or a team with a lesser record. You respect everybody equally.''

Respecting everybody equally might be a stretch when it comes to dealing with Giants left fielder Barry Bonds. A year after hitting a record 73 homers, Bonds set a major league record in 2002 with 198 walks while winning the National League batting title with a .370 average. The respect he gets from opposing pitchers is off the charts.

``Last year and this year he's had the two best seasons in the history of baseball,'' Scioscia said. ``There's nobody that can look at his numbers -- on-base percentage, slugging percentage, the home runs, to the impact he's had on games -- and say that anyone has had better seasons in the history of the game. I don't know how you can argue that.''

Scioscia is also quick to point out that the Giants are more than Bonds. They won 95 games to earn the NL wild-card spot, then beat the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series and the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series to reach their first World Series since 1989.

Second baseman Jeff Kent hits in front of Bonds and is a former NL MVP. Catcher Benito Santiago hits behind Bonds and won the NLCS MVP this year. Center fielder and leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton got the game-winning hit in the Giants' Game 5-clincher over the Cardinals. Shortstop and No. 2 hitter Rich Aurilia hit 37 homers as recently as 2001.

``It's not only Barry but the guys, how they get on in front of Barry and occupy a base or two or three, where they have to pitch to Barry,'' Giants manager Dusty Baker said. ``If there's a base open, they'll probably walk Barry. If the bases are clogged, they have a good chance of pitching to him.''

Angels pitcher Jarrod Washburn, who will start Game 1 tonight, issued only one intentional walk all season (Seattle's Edgar Martinez). He's the kind of pitcher that challenges hitters, but he said he knows when to be smart.

``I don't give a crap about macho right now,'' Washburn said. ``All I care about is winning the World Series. Guys can call me a wimp because I pitched around Barry Bonds, but as long as we win, who cares?''

The Angels lost Game 1 in each of their first two playoff series, and tonight will face a pitcher they haven't seen before in Giants starter Jason Schmidt.

``I watched him against St. Louis and noticed he's very similar to (Roger) Clemens,'' Erstad said. ``He has a bulldog mentality, he goes after guys.''

Including regular season and playoffs, each team has played 171 games this year. At least four and as many as seven remain to decide this year's champion, and the first pitch couldn't come soon enough for the players.

``I think as a team we can't wait for the games to start,'' Angels shortstop David Eckstein said. ``That's the only thing that's normal to us. We're not used to all the interviews and the phone calls asking for tickets. The only thing left now is the game. This is what we've all been waiting for.''


ANAHEIM -- It's not Super Bowl week, just an incredible simulation.

For the fourth day in a row the Angels did not play a baseball game Thursday, marking their longest layoff since early in spring training. In fact, Thursday's workout resembled a spring workout, with pitchers taking part in PFP (pitchers fielding practice) and hitters batting off some of the team's relievers instead of batting-practice pitchers.

The Angels finished up the American League Championship Series Sunday and will open the World Series on Saturday after a five-day layoff.

``It's kind of nice,'' Angels shortstop David Eckstein said. ``You know how we've been playing so hard for so long, we needed the rest, especially after playing on turf (in Minnesota). And I was able to get some sleep.''

While Eckstein might enjoy the time off, others are not. Eckstein scored only one run in the American League Championship Series and might have needed the time to recharge. But much of the offense was rolling, and five days off between games leaves them wondering where they'll pick up.

``You just try to have them do the same things they've been doing in batting practice,'' Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. ``Pitchers are throwing simulated games, so the guys are seeing some live pitching with breaking balls and changeups to keep them sharp.

``It's tough, I hate the layoff. You want to get in there and keep it going.''
Anyone looking for a rivalry between former Dodgers and current Giants, or former Giants and current Angels or anything of the like will be disappointed. There are none.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia and most of his coaching staff are former Dodgers. Angels pitching coach Bud Black is an ex-Giant. Giants manager Dusty Baker is an ex-Dodger, as is Giants outfielder Tom Goodwin. Giants first baseman J.T. Snow is an ex-Angel, and Giants pitcher Tim Worrell's older brother Todd is an ex-Dodger. Angels pitcher Ben Weber is an ex-Giant.

``When I played for the Dodgers, I think any rivalry that was felt was more with the fans and the media,'' Scioscia said. ``We're not looking over there and seeing anything but a talented team you're trying to match up against and beat.''

Snow remembers some of the Angels players who were his teammates when he played here, but otherwise it's nothing close to when he played for them from 1994-96.

``The front office has changed,'' Snow said. ``The uniforms have changed a number of times. The stadium is different, the colors of the uniform and all that stuff. The rally monkey. It's almost like a different organization, a different franchise.''


Scioscia has reached the World Series for the third time, but he said this time doesn't match the feelings he had as a player for the Dodgers in 1981 and '88.

``This game's all about playing it,'' he said. ``Getting to achieve the World Series as a player ... nothing comes close to it.''

Probably no Angel has celebrated more during the past few weeks than right fielder Tim Salmon. During each of the three champagne- and beer-spraying parties, Salmon has been the loudest and most active among his teammates.

``Tim has enjoyed everything about the pennant race and the two tiers in the playoffs we've advanced,'' Scioscia said. ``Out of all the guys in the clubhouse, he realizes the difficulty of the journey better than anyone. He understands what it takes to get here.''

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