10/20/2002 01:19 am ET
Big Picture: Giants take control
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
Just as they did against Atlanta and St. Louis, the Giants have struck the first blow in another playoff series. This time it was the Angels who saw firsthand the familiar modus operandi the Giants used to upset the Braves and Cardinals in the first two rounds of the postseason.
Once again, we saw a San Francisco offense that struck early, a Giant starting pitcher who was at least good if not great and a bullpen that knew how to protect a lead. The Angels were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and if that sounds familiar it should. The Cardinals were 3-for-39 with runners in scoring position. The Angels outhit the Giants in Game 1 and lost. The Cardinals outhit the Giants and lost in four games.
The Giants won the first game of each series on the road at Atlanta, St. Louis and now Anaheim. Though Barry Bonds contributed a homer, it was the only hit the Giant slugger had on the night. He hit .273 against the Cardinals, nearly 100 points lower than his season average against the league. Bonds, just as he wasn't against the Cardinals, was not the deciding factor against the Angels in Game 1.
A name or two changed, such as Reggie Sanders playing a huge role instead of Benito Santiago, but the script was virtually identical to the one Dusty Baker's Giants have been using throughout their fantastic fall: A different hero every night and an opponent who squanders opportunities as if it were virtuous to do so.
If the Angels are to avoid the Braves' and Cardinals' fates and find a way to win this series they must win Game 2 Sunday night. The Giants are on a roll and are playing close to flawless baseball, so to go down two games to none against a team this hot would essentially leave Anaheim in a hole they would have little chance of climbing out from in a seven-game series.
The Giants, having beaten Angels ace Jarrod Washburn on the road, have taken command once again. Now it is up to Kevin Appier, Anaheim's Game 2 starter, and the Angels to keep the Giants from taking a 2-0 lead as they did against the Cardinals. The Cardinals dropped Game 2 at Busch Stadium and wound up being eliminated in five games without ever forcing a return to St. Louis for Game 6.
The Angels, unless they can bounce back Sunday night, will be facing a similar predicament. For the Giants, it could be deja vu all over again.
Jim Molony is reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.