10/06/2002 7:00 pm ET
MLBeat: Baker defends move
By Josh Rawitch / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- As expected, Giants manager Dusty Baker took his fair share of criticism in the media for his decision to bring in journeyman right-hander Manny Aybar with Game 3 of the NLDS on the line Saturday. Aybar allowed all three inherited runners to score in addition to two others in a span of two pitches, but Baker stood by his decision the morning after.
"I know my personnel more than anybody else," said Baker, who admitted to listening to the negative talk on the team's flagship station, KNBR, on the way home from the ballpark. "Aybar has been awesome for us in that situation. He had bases loaded four times down the stretch here and stranded all but one on a wild pitch. He was our best choice at that time."
Several columnists and broadcasters spoke of Baker's decision in the 2000 playoffs, when he allowed Mark Gardner to hit for himself early in the game with the bases loaded in Game 4 of the NLDS, a game in which his team was eliminated.
"You knew that was going to happen anyway," said Baker. "People bring up the past, people remember the past. I don't manage for talk radio or the press or anybody else. I manage with the guys that I think are the best in that situation that I think will come through or have the best chance of coming through in that situation.
"You can't stop people from saying what they're going to say or thinking what they think. If they were that good, they'd be in my shoes."
Baker said that all of his pitchers are available to be used in Game 4, with the exception of Game 5 starter Russ Ortiz, who would only pitch in an emergency.
Mile High club: The Braves' potential Game 5 starter, Kevin Millwood, skipped his media session and flew back to Atlanta early Sunday morning so that he could get a good night's rest. Ortiz, however, did not fly ahead and will have to go with the team if the deciding game is necessary, sleeping on the plane and arriving in the Peach State early Monday morning.
While that might sound crazy, Ortiz's other option would be to address the media at 3:30 p.m. PT as he was scheduled to do, fly to Atlanta during Game 4 and if the Giants lost, grab the next flight back to San Francisco.
"We discussed it and thought about it," said Baker. "It's just that, you know, if it goes 13 or 14 innings, we might need him. ... It's a lot easier to fly Millwood home to his own home than it is for us to fly Russ to their home."
In an ironic twist, if the Giants pull off an improbable comeback and capture Games 4 and 5 to advance to the NLCS against St. Louis, Kirk Rueter would likely start Game 1 of that series. Rueter grew up as a huge Cardinals fan in nearby Hoyleton, Ill., where he often invites teammates to enjoy the comfort of "The Shed," a state-of-the-art entertainment hut next to his home that is approximately 4,000 square feet in size.
From the positive thinking department: The Giants know that no team has ever overcome a 2-1 deficit in the NLDS and that as a team, the franchise has not overcome such a disadvantage since the 1921 World Series, but no one is willing to throw in the towel just yet.
"We're still alive," said shortstop Rich Aurilia. "We hit [Tom] Glavine pretty well the first time. We'll come back and try to force Game 5. It's going to be a total different scenario but I think we're confident, and we're still a confident team that we can go out and win [today] and one on Monday, but we've still got to go one step at a time."
"Somebody had to win the ballgame [yesterday] and it wasn't us," said second baseman Jeff Kent. "We understand that it's a short five-game series and now we've got to win the next one. I think guys still have a belief in themselves. I know guys still have a belief in themselves. I do. There's not much you can do or say, you've just got to play."
"We have played well with our backs against the wall all year, especially the last month and a half of the season we had some must-win games," said J.T. Snow. "We know what we've got to do now. We've got to get [today's] game."
Josh Rawitch 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.