10/02/2002 02:43 am ET
Giambi big in Yanks playoff debut
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Jason Giambi has seen this before. He has been in Yankee Stadium as the Bronx Bombers, inspired by a raucous crowd, stir up an emotional comeback before dispatching the hopes and dreams of another opponent.
The only difference between Giambi's past experiences is that instead of wearing a road-gray uniform, he now wears pinstripes.
"When I got the basehit, I said, 'Thank God I'm in this dugout, not in the other one this time,'" Giambi said. "Because I've been there two times going, "Oh [shoot], here we go again."
The hit Giambi referred to is his eighth-inning infield single, which scored Alfonso Soriano from second base to tie Game 1 of the AL Division Series. Six pitches later, Giambi was trotting around the bases after Bernie Williams' three-run home run gave the Yankees an 8-5 lead.
After Troy Glaus' second home run of the night gave the Angels a 5-4 lead, things looked bleak for the Yankees, as Angels closer Troy Percival waited for his chance to pitch the ninth inning. Reliever Ben Weber opened the eighth by retiring Rondell White and pinch-hitter John Vander Wal, bringing Alfonso Soriano to the plate.
Soriano fell behind 0-2, but managed to work a walk. Soriano stole second and Weber walked Jeter, putting runners at second and third for Giambi. Instead of bringing in Percival, who had struck out Giambi in all five of their meetings, manager Mike Scioscia called on Scott Schoeneweis to create a lefty-lefty matchup.
"I had looked out there and I knew if Jeter got on, I was going to get Schoeneweis because I didn't see Percival out there," Giambi said. "That's all I was concentrating on in the on-deck circle, thinking how he was going to pitch me, my approach against him."
Giambi fell behind 1-2, but lined the 2-2 pitch to the right of first baseman Scott Spiezio, who knocked it down but couldn't make a play on the ball. Soriano scored from second base to tie the game, and Williams followed with his dramatic homer.
"It's unbelievable. It's like clockwork," Giambi said. "Seventh, eighth inning rolls around, Soriano goes from an 0-2 count to a walk, Jeter takes a great at-bat. I smoke a ball in the hole, goes off the glove of Spiezio. Then, of course Bernie steps up and hits a three-run. Unbelievable."
Giambi's first "moment" at Yankee Stadium came in mid-May, when he crushed a walk-off grand slam in the rain of a 14-inning game against the Minnesota Twins. His first playoff game as a Yankee may rank right up there.
Giambi's game-tying hit was hardly his lone contribution to the Yankees' Game 1 victory. With the game tied 1-1 in the third, Giambi lined a two-run homer to right-center field, putting the Yankees ahead. For the night, he went 3-for-4 with the homer, three RBIs and two runs scored.
"He's been locked in as of late," Jeter said. "You can throw all the stats from the regular season out the window, you just want to be hot and in a groove when the postseason comes, and he's been swinging the bat well lately."
This is Giambi's third Division Series at Yankee Stadium. The first two ended with his Oakland A's losing in a fifth and deciding game. Now, Giambi gets the opportunity to experience October life with the team that has sent him packing for the winter the last two years.
"Being here now, they never panic. Even when Glaus hit the home run, it wasn't a situation where guys are, 'Uhhh.' You don't ever feel the wind getting taken out of your sails on this ballclub," Giambi said. "This team, it wears off on you from Jeter and Posada and Bernie and Rocket, the guys that have been here. And I honestly think it comes from Joe. The skipper never panics. He's never in there going, 'Well, let's get them tomorrow.' He just has that calmness about him that just makes everybody feel like they want to give that extra effort for him and never quit."
There wasn't any quit in the Yankees on Tuesday. As Giambi now knows first-hand, there never is.
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.