10/21/2002 01:02 am ET
Nightmare for pitching coaches
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
AHAHEIM, Calif. -- This wasn't supposed to happen in the World Series.
After all, the Fall Classic showcases the finest that the American and National Leagues have to offer. These teams are here mainly because they were better than everyone else when it counted. Why? Nine times out of ten: pitching.
So when the two presumably best pitching staffs in the big league face each other in a World Series setting, you're not going to see many slugfests. Especially in Games 1 and 2, when the top-tier hurlers from both teams take the stage.
But on Sunday, Giants starter Russ Ortiz lasted only 1 2/3 innings. His mound opponent, Angels right-hander Kevin Appier, fared only slightly better, making it to the third before exiting with no outs and a runner on in the third.
For those World Series history buffs, Sunday marked the first time since 1957 that both starters failed to retire more than six batters in a game.
At least Ortiz and Appier, during the time they were out there, had control over their own destiny. Their pitching coaches, on the other hand, were not afforded such a luxury. All they could do was watch helplessly from the dugouts while the teams fought to an 11-10 finish that allowed the victorious Angels to tie the Series at one game apiece.
Perhaps Anaheim pitching coach Bud Black said it best, "It was a classic slugfest that you don't see in World Series games. That's the shock of it."
Although he was subjected to the view from the dugout as Appier self-destructed on the mound, Black was in good spirits following the game. Winning tends to have that effect on people.
Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti, on the other hand, might lose a few winks of sleep. His night was busy, and it began early, when he was faced with the task of keeping Ortiz's head in the game after the Angels tagged the right-hander with a five-run first.
Righetti surmised that Ortiz's troubles stemmed from his inability to get ahead of hitters early.
"He was struggling throwing strike one, that was the biggest thing," Righetti said. "After that, he was at the point where they got to him so quick he didn't have a chance to catch his breath."
But the Giants roared back with four runs in the second. For Ortiz, another chance.
"It was a new game, it was 1-0 basically," Righetti said. "He had a chance to go out there and start it up again. But Eckstein dropped the bunt down (to lead off the second) and the next thing you know he started to get into trouble again. I'm sure it felt like a blur to him."
Ortiz's evening ended shortly after that, but Righetti's was just beginning. In the eighth inning, the pitching coach trotted out to the mound to calm the nerves of reliever Felix Rodriguez, who was moments away from facing Tim Salmon in a 9-9 game with two outs and Eckstein perched on first base.
"I basically just went out to check on him," Righetti said. "I knew he was working real hard to get through that inning. I just wanted to give him a breather and talk to him. He was doing a helluva job keeping (Eckstein) close to first. The main concern when I went to see him was to let him know that he was being quick enough, not to go any quicker, just to hold tight so he could concentrate on making his pitches."
The plan backfired when Salmon hit the game-winner, a two-run shot that put the Angels ahead, 11-9 and made Barry Bonds' solo homer a few minutes later irrelevant.
As for the rare October slugfest, both coaches could only shrug their shoulders and assume it's not likely to happen again.
"The way the game is, you're never surprised by it," Righetti said. "You kind of felt like it was going to be one of those games so you kind of prepare for it a little bit. It's hard when you lose a starter basically in the second inning."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.