10/24/2002 01:28 am ET
Big Picture: Best-of-three series
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
The Giants slowed down Anaheim and made the World Series a best-of-three affair with a 4-3 victory Wednesday night. Even though the Series is tied at two games apiece, the Angels are arguably still in the driver's seat.
This was a game the Giants had to win, because losing would have meant a 3-1 deficit and essentially put the Series out of reach, and the Giants deserve a lot of credit for overcoming a 3-0 Anaheim lead and coming through against phenom Francisco Rodriguez.
The Giants pulled out a one-run victory even though they had what some thought was a favorable mismatch for the hosts with lefty Kirk Rueter, one of their best postseason pitchers, going against Anaheim rookie John Lackey. The Giants barely won the game even though they held the top three hitters in the Anaheim lineup to a combined 1-for-11, the first time that's happened since the playoffs began. They outhit Anaheim, another rarity, and had four infield hits, not the kind of occurrence a team can regularly count on. The Angels didn't get a runner to second base after the third inning, which happens about as often as Barry Bonds wears the Golden Sombrero.
A lot of things went right for the Giants on Wednesday night, and yet the game still wasn't decided until Robb Nen induced a game-ending double play from Brad Fullmer. One play here or one hit there and the Angels could have been up 3-1. They know they came very close to getting it done and for most teams that would be extremely frustrating. With the Angels it only seems to fuel the confidence they have in their own abilities. They may have missed an opportunity Wednesday night, but they know they have a very good chance to win two more games, especially since the Series will be returning to Anaheim.
"Our mindset is the same," Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia said. "We talked about it all week, you need four wins to wrap this series up. We're not looking up 3-1, 2-2 or down 3-1, whatever it would be, we're looking at that game tomorrow and that's it. We'll let you guys add them up. Our club will bounce back and play a good game no matter if we had won this game or as it turned out, we lost it, but it doesn't affect what we do tomorrow."
The Angels, who have outhit the Giants by 67 points (.340 to .273) and have outscored them (27-22), will have their ace going in Game 5 (Jarrod Washburn) against Giants right-hander Jason Schmidt. Schmidt has been outstanding during the postseason, but he is an exception as Giant starters have a 9.53 ERA in the Series.
If Washburn comes up short Thursday night and Anaheim has another first -- losing two in a row in the postseason -- at least the Angels know they will be going home for Game 6. And that will be quite an advantage, no matter what the Series scoreboard says.
Jim Molony is a 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.