10/03/2002 03:18 am ET
Game 2: Percival gets the call
Angels go to their closer early and win
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- When Troy Percival enters a game, he always performs the same routine.
The Angels' closer saunters out of the bullpen calmly and pointedly, paces a few feet on the outfield grass, then begins an all-out sprint to the mound.
In the eighth inning of Wednesday night's Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Percival was about to do himself one better: He was so anxious to get in the game that he almost ran through the door.
"I was chomping at the bit," he says.
As the Angels' late-inning stallion, Percival is more of a short-striding quarterhorse type, not a long-winded thoroughbred. He usually takes the ball for one inning -- the last inning.
On Wednesday, the Angels led the Yankees, 7-5, in the eighth and reliever Ben Weber put runners on first and second via two singles. The second one, by Raul Mondesi, was an infield hit that glanced off Weber's hand, forcing him out of the game.
Weber suffered a sprained second finger on his right hand and will receive X-rays in Anaheim on Thursday.
Meanwhile, out in the bullpen, Percival looked like a headstrong colt ready to pop out of the gate and get moving.
But instead of going to his closer early, Scioscia did what he had done Tuesday night in Anaheim's 8-5 loss to New York -- he called on someone else.
"I wasn't upset, because I know the job our guys can do," Percival said. "I was just so ready to get in there and I got my reins pulled."
On Tuesday, the Angels had a 5-4 lead with two outs in the eighth and Scioscia didn't bring in Percival. Brendan Donnelly, Ben Weber and Scott Schoeneweis came in and imploded.
The end result was a game-winning three-run homer by Bernie Williams and a flood of second guesses about Scioscia's decision to wait on Percival.
Scioscia defended the move over and over, saying he'd dance with what brought his team to the playoffs: guys like Donnelly doing the job.
On Wednesday, Donnelly proved his manager right, striking out pinch-hitter John Vander Wal to get the second out.
Then, with Alfonso Soriano coming to bat, Scioscia finally called on Percival.
The 33-year-old leader of the bullpen, the guy who had never pitched in a postseason game in his eight-year-career, was pumped up.
Maybe a little too pumped up.
His first pitch, a 97 mph heater, rode in on Soriano and nailed him in the left shoulder blade, loading the bases and adding some black and blue to the second baseman's pinstripes.
"I wasn't nervous," Percival said. "I was just trying to move him inside. He's so dangerous when he can extend his arms, so you have to move him inside. The ball just got away from me. I don't apologize for trying to come in on a guy."
Shortstop David Eckstein had a slightly different perspective on it.
"I think we saw a little nerves, but maybe that's because he waited so long for that first pitch," Eckstein said. "I mean, he was dying to get in there."
Percival controlled his adrenalin right after that and struck out Derek Jeter looking to end the inning.
He gave up a run on three hits in the ninth, but he struck out Nick Johnson and got Raul Mondesi to pop up to shortstop to end the game and notch his first career playoff save.
Back in the clubhouse, his teammates said they were happy to see him finally make it into a game and to see Scioscia vindicated, at least for one night.
"Mike took a lot of flack about not bringing him in last night," first baseman Scott Spiezio said. "But that's what's been working for us all year."
Right fielder Tim Salmon agreed.
"That was really encouraging to this team," Salmon said. "Mike sticks to his guns and has a lot of faith in all of us."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.