10/10/2002 1:06 AM ET
What a difference an outing makes
Anaheim starter regains control in win
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The difference in the results was obvious. Anyone who can read a box score will know Ramon Ortiz pitched better in his second postseason outing than he did in his first.
But the difference in Ortiz was more than just about the numbers. Actually, the numbers -- three earned runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings -- don't really tell the story of how well Ramon Ortiz performed in the Angels' 6-3 victory in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.
Sure, those numbers are better than what Ortiz had in his postseason debut against the Yankees in the Division Series last week, when he gave up six earned runs and didn't make it out of the third inning.
But the biggest difference was in how Ortiz pitched to the Twins, as opposed to the way he pitched to the Yankees. He let his stellar stuff work for him, keeping it under control and not getting himself into trouble by issuing walks.
Just ask the man who had the best view of Ortiz's outing from behind the plate -- Angels catcher Bengie Molina.
"I think the biggest difference I always say with him is control," Molina said of Ortiz, who issued just one walk Wednesday as opposed to four against the Yankees. "He had command of all his pitches tonight and did a good job using both sides of the plate, moving in and out. It's just control for him."
That, Molina said, was in stark contrast to the way Ortiz pitched in his AL Division Series blowup against New York last Friday.
"At home against the Yankees, he threw everything for a ball," Molina said. "He didn't have his command at all that time. That kills him."
When he does have command, Ortiz can turn the tables and throw his killer stuff at an opponent.
It was more like that Wednesday night, when he didn't really let the Twins get much of anything going. And when they did, for the most part he was able to snuff rallies, at least until a three-run sixth knocked him out of the game.
"I don't change anything," Ortiz said. "I just threw a lot more strikes today. I made a lot of good pitches behind in the count, too."
Aside from his pickoff of Luis Rivas at first base in the third inning, two of the biggest plays for Ortiz came courtesy of double-play grounders he induced. The first one was a 6-4-3 job with speedy Torii Hunter at the plate, taking steam out of a potential rally in the fourth.
"You have to make a good pitch," Ortiz said. "I got a slider inside on Torii Hunter, and that guy's a good hitter. You have to make a good pitch there."
He got another double play off the bat of Luis Rivas after A.J. Pierzynski's leadoff single in the fifth.
But as he entered the sixth, Ortiz was falling behind in the count, his pitch count was approaching 100 and the Twins reeled off four hits in five batters, bringing the Metrodome crowd back into the mix.
After Doug Mientkiewicz's bloop single fell in front of center fielder Darin Erstad to push across the runs that cut the Angels' lead to three, Ortiz's night was over after 96 pitches. It was time for the Angels bullpen to take over -- and that's exactly what the relief corps did, allowing just one hit the rest of the way.
Perhaps now Ortiz's rough outing against the Yankees -- the subject of question after question in his press conference Tuesday in advance of his Game 2 start -- can be put to rest. Ortiz maintained and still maintains he already had done that himself.
"Everybody was talking about the game I pitched against the Yankees," Ortiz said. "I don't think too much about it. I was thinking about my next game -- this game."
Now nobody has much reason to think about his start in the Division Series. The Angels are in the ALCS now, and Ortiz put them in position to even the series heading back home to Anaheim.
Said Molina: "That was huge. Now he knows he can do it. He can do it in front of any fans, anywhere."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.