10/20/2002 00:27 am ET
Giants' pen cages Rally Monkey
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As Tim Worrell began to battle through the tough 5-6-7 portion of the Angels' lineup in the eighth inning Saturday night, Robb Nen was prowling around the Giants' bullpen like a caged panther.
The Giants' closer was merely preparing himself for the inevitable, because he knew he was on his way in to save a Giants victory in Game 1 of the World Series.
The way his bullpen mates have been going lately, it was only a matter of time -- and outs.
This crew has been on a roll, and the Giants' late-inning relief corps ganged up on the Angels and their Rally Monkey to hold off Anaheim to secure a 4-3 victory in Game 1.
At this point, they're clearly feeding off each other and making sure leads remain leads in bigger and bigger games.
"It just kind of keeps rolling," Nen said. "You just want to keep the ball in your court, keep ahead of hitters and just say, 'You know what? He went out and put up a zero. I'm going to go out and put up a zero.'"
Said Worrell: "We all just look at it as all you really have to do is get your first guy out, because after that you can just send the ball down the line and we'll get the job done."
Again, this was a team effort all the way, using the three stars of what has been a stellar crew.
First, the original reliever dubbed F-Rod -- Felix Rodriguez, not the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez -- stopped the Angels' momentum. Then Worrell came in and held the lead in the eighth. Then it was Nen's turn, and when center fielder Kenny Lofton's glove squeezed a high pop off the bat of Darin Erstad, the relief job was complete.
This crew has done the job before as part of a bullpen that finished second in the Majors with a 2.88 ERA this season, and Rodriguez says a big part of it is that they've been intact and done the job all season.
"We've had the same guys with us pretty much all year," Rodriguez said. "You don't see a lot of new faces, so we work together pretty good. Everybody works together and tries to help each other."
Rodriguez did his bit Saturday night by getting starter Jason Schmidt out of a jam in the sixth. After Schmidt gave up an RBI single to Adam Kennedy to draw the Angels within a run, F-Rod shut the door on the sixth by getting David Eckstein to line out, and then rolled through a 1-2-3 seventh.
Enter Worrell, who got Troy Glaus -- he of the two home runs in his first three World Series at-bats -- to strike out looking with a well-placed fastball on the plate for the first out. The veteran right-hander then got left-handed batter Brad Fullmer to ground out, but got into a little trouble, falling behind 3-and-0 on pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro. But he got the count full before getting Palmeiro on a popout to third baseman David Bell on the lip of the Angels' dugout.
Nen then got ALCS hero Adam Kennedy on a deep fly to right, broke out a slider he called "one of my best ones in a while" to strike out David Eckstein and then got Erstad to pop out to center to finish off the game.
For Nen, getting to the ninth was as big as getting through it.
"They've done such a great job of keeping me out of the eighth inning all year, and they did it again tonight," Nen said.
Everybody talks about the flip-flop Baker made in the batting lineup, putting Jeff Kent at No. 3 and Barry Bonds at cleanup. But Baker made another flip-flop in the bullpen, pushing Rodriguez back to the seventh and making Worrell the setup man after Rodriguez struggled with tendinitis in his right hand earlier in the season.
Either way, the Giants know they have a veteran with strong stuff for the late innings.
"I thought this was the case last year and I think it's the same now: I think Felix and I can be interchangeable," Worrell said. "I really think you can put either one of us in there depending on who's coming up in the lineup."
There's a nice luxury: A setup tandem, enough stopper material to take care of the two innings leading up to Nen.
"If it wasn't for those two guys, we wouldn't be where we're at," Nen said.
And if it wasn't for those three guys, including Nen, the Angels and their Rally Monkey might have done their normal comeback routine in the late innings Saturday.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.