10/09/2002 00:57 am ET
Solid start by Appier goes to waste
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- If the Angels could only look at half the scoreboard at the end of Tuesday night's game at the Metrodome, they might have considered it a success.
A "2" next to "Twins" on the board usually looks pretty good, especially given Minnesota's dome-field advantage and the lineup the Twins run out there.
"Any time you hold the Twins to two runs in this ballpark, you know you've done a good job," Angels pitching coach Bud Black said.
Of course, that was little consolation for anybody in the Angels' clubhouse in the wake of their 2-1 loss to the Twins in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
It was the best pitching performance of the postseason for the Angels, who won the AL Division Series despite a team ERA of 6.17. But it meant precious little based on the outcome.
Angels starter Kevin Appier certainly wasn't finding much solace in a well-pitched game that began with his five innings and included three innings of no-hit relief from Brendan Donnelly, Scott Schoeneweis and Ben Weber.
"Together, I think we pitched pretty good tonight," starter Kevin Appier said. "Just not good enough."
That's tough to say when you give up two runs, but on Tuesday it was true. Thanks to eight superior innings by Twins starter Joe Mays, the Angels offense never got started to support Anaheim's fine pitching. The Angels, who batted .376 as a team in the ALDS, managed only four hits on the night.
Appier allowed both Twins runs on five hits, walking three and striking out two. But he made big pitches when he had to more often than not.
"It seemed like he stepped up and made some pitches when things got hot, and our bullpen did a super job to give us a chance," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
By the end of five innings, though, Appier was done. He'd thrown 94 pitches, 51 of them for strikes, and done what he could do for the day. He credited the Twins for driving his pitch count up so high, so fast.
"My fastball had pretty good action and all my offspeed stuff was working pretty good," Appier said. "They just did a good job of spitting on a lot of close pitches tonight."
For Appier, the difference between winning and losing came down to just a few pitches that weren't quite where he'd have liked them to be. Of course, that's generally the case for any pitcher, but on this night the fine line between a solid start and being tagged with a tough loss was even finer.
"When you lose you can always go through and pick a few pitches that were costly," Appier said. "I mean, we threw a ton of good pitches, too."
Indeed, Appier used those to get out of most of the jams he found himself in, including the ones he used to strike out Torii Hunter with two runners in scoring position in the fifth, his final pitch of the game.
"I think we did a good job of getting out of some jams," Appier said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't get out of all of them."
Said Scioscia: "You know, Ape worked for every out he got."
In this game, the pitches that didn't go Appier's way were few but they did make the difference:
A wild pitch in the second inning that put Hunter on third with no outs and Doug Mientkiewicz at the plate. Hunter scored when A.J. Pierzynski hit a sacrifice fly for the second out, giving the Twins a 1-0 lead.
The five pitches he used to walk No. 9 hitter Luis Rivas to lead off the fifth.
A 2-and-2 offspeed pitch that caught too much of the plate and turned into an RBI double for Corey Koskie three batters later, driving in Rivas with what turned out to be the winning run.
They didn't add up to much. But they added up to enough to spell a Game 1 loss for the Angels.
"I feel pretty good about the way I threw overall," Appier said. "I just don't feel good about the outcome."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.