10/18/2002 10:39 pm ET
Schmidt ready for the challenge
Right-hander gets the ball in Game 1
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- We may never know how Jason Schmidt really feels about being the Giants' Game 1 starter of the World Series on Saturday. After all, is it possible for a pitcher who has never played in the Fall Classic to be this nonchalant before he takes baseball's biggest stage?
Perhaps it just took a while for the enormity of the upcoming games to hit the 29-year-old right-hander, and after having a few days to mull it over, he appeared to finally get it.
"Until you actually get on that mound and you see all the people out there, it's not really going to sink in completely," he said. "I still say it's definitely an honor. I'm just going to enjoy it."
The Giants hope that he enjoys this start with the same degree of jubilance he had when he beat the Cardinals in his most recent start on Oct. 10, his only NLCS appearance. He led the Giants to a 4-1 win and a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that night, yielding a lone run in 7 2/3 innings, walking one and striking out eight.
But when Schmidt takes the mound, eight days will have passed since that start. While hitters might benefit from an extra two or three days in between series, how a pitcher will respond to the sudden jolt in his routine is anyone's guess.
Schmidt admitted it could go either way.
"You never really know until you get out there," he said. "Sometimes you feel sharper, sometimes you feel a little bit too strong. That's kind of where, mentally, you just kind of have to overcome whatever emotions you're feeling."
While it's true there was never a clear-cut favorite for the Game 1 nod -- any of the four would have been a formidable choice -- Schmidt certainly helped his case with a solid postseason thus far that capped a regular season which gradually improved after starting off rather umimpressively.
Schmidt allowed 15 earned runs over his first six starts -- spanning 24 1/3 innings -- until he recorded nine shutout innings against the Diamondbacks on May 29, taking the no-decision in an eventual 1-0, 10-inning win. After that, he allowed three or fewer runs in six of eight starts and by season's end had thrown two more complete games -- one of which was a shutout. All told, Schmidt matched his career-high with 13 wins and recorded a career-best 3.45 ERA.
On Saturday, the hard-throwing righty will face the team that led the American League with the fewest strikeouts.
"Strikeouts are not something you try for," he said. "It's a bonus of making good pitches at the right times. Just because you don't strike somebody out, it doesn't mean you're not going to get them out. You force groundouts, popups. Guys are going to make their outs.
"But [the Angels] are not a team that strikes out a lot. You really have to make better pitches, no doubt about it."
If Schmidt has one advantage, it may be the fact that the Angels have never before faced him and admittedly know very little about him.
But as Schmidt pointed out, that could even out in the end.
"It's the same thing for us as a starting staff as well," he said. "We don't know much about them. That's what makes the World Series so interesting. It's two teams going against each other that don't have the knowledge of one another. You just kind of go out and try to get a read off each other. That's what we're doing."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.