10/11/2002 9:53 pm ET
Giants lean on Nen to slam door
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants closer Robb Nen looks back and admits the excitement of his first postseason appearance overwhelmed him.
"One thing I learned then that helps now is don't get caught up in all the hype -- sit back, enjoy it, take it all in," Nen said during Friday's off day of the best-of-7 National League Championship Series, which San Francisco leads over the Cardinals, 2-0. The two teams resume play on Saturday at Pacific Bell Park. "Back then, you were in awe of everything."
The whole while, Nen was awe-inspiring. He somehow overcame his jitters enough to help the Florida Marlins win the 1997 World Series, by going 1-0 with four saves in eight postseason games, including two saves in the Series.
Now in his third postseason, Nen said he combats the excitement by taking a deep breath to stop and "think about what I want to do with that next pitch or next hitter."
Since that outstanding maiden postseason, the stress is reduced and the enjoyment is increased. Otherwise there's nothing different about Nen. The success remains.
Nen has earned saves in both games against the Cardinals. He also finished with two saves in three appearances in the NL Division Series against Atlanta. Starting with his scoreless work in Game 7 of the Marlins victory over the Cleveland Indians, Nen has not allowed a run in his last nine postseason games.
Nen, 32, also has 314 regular-season saves, 11th all-time, and is the youngest member of the 300 saves club.
"He's been awesome," Giants manager Dusty Baker said. "They have been clean innings. They try to make him walk somebody early by taking (pitches), especially the first couple of batters. You can tell what they are trying to do.
"We have full confidence in Robb Nen. He's been one of the best and shall be one of the best for a long time."
Even the innings that haven't been so clean have been calm for Nen.
In the ninth inning of Monday night's 3-1 Giants victory over the Braves in the NLDS deciding game, Nen allowed runners at first and third with no outs. Nen escaped with the save by beating two of Atlanta's most dangerous hitters -- Gary Sheffield with a strikeout and Chipper Jones with a double-play grounder.
Nen wasn't the least bit bothered, either, when left fielder Barry Bonds misjudged a Jim Edmonds fly ball into a leadoff double in the ninth on Thursday night. Edmonds advanced to third on Albert Pujols's line drive to right but didn't go any further. Nen limited Tino Martinez to a weak fly ball and ended the game by forcing Edgar Renteria into an infield grounder.
"You focus a bit more," Nen said. "I know, for instance, when I go out there with a bigger lead I tend not to be quite as aggressive as I should and sometimes that gets me in trouble.
Nen believes tighter situations give him the pressure that he has spent years learning to handle.
"Doing this job for as long as I have, you realize how to harness your emotions and your adrenaline, to use them when you need them and not use them when you don't," Nen said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.