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Washburn back in Game 1 spotlight
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10/04/2004 9:23 PM ET
Washburn back in Game 1 spotlight
Anaheim lefty led off 2002 World Series vs. Giants
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Jarrod Washburn's objective in Game 1 will be the same as any of his starts: throw a shutout. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

ANAHEIM -- As he sat down to watch last Saturday's Oakland-Anaheim game at Network Associates Coliseum, Angels' left-hander Jarrod Washburn knew his next start was going to be a pressure-cooker experience.

He just didn't know where or when.

Had the Angels lost on Saturday, Washburn would have pitched Sunday in Oakland with a division title on the line. As it turned out, the Angels prevailed and created a scenario in which Washburn will instead be matched against Curt Schilling in Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Tuesday at Angel Stadium.

"I started the first [World Series] game in '02," Washburn recalled. "Hopefully, me starting the first game is a good sign for us."

The Angels certainly need for Washburn to be at his best while going against the dominating Schilling. An Anaheim loss in Game 1 of the best-of-five set would mean the Angels would have to win at least one at Fenway Park to bring the series back to southern California.

Washburn drew some laughter from the media contingent at Monday's workout when he gave a succinct initial appraisal of the Boston lineup he's about to face.

"They're pretty good," Washburn said.

After a smile and a pause, Washburn offered elaboration.

"They are very patient hitters who know the strike zone very well," Washburn said. "They've got those two guys in the middle of the lineup [Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz] who can hurt you if you make mistakes. So the key is to make pitches and get ahead in the count. You try to limit the mistakes against them and keep guys off base ahead of Ortiz and Ramirez."

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Washburn had a solid season for the American League West champs, compiling an 11-8 record and 4.64 ERA. He's the freshest Angels pitcher after a furious stretch run in which manager Mike Scioscia went with a four-man rotation over the final two weeks. He's the only Anaheim lefty and the Angels hope he'll be able to neutralize lefty-swinging catalyst Johnny Damon.

While some suggest that the Angels will benefit in this series from the playoff experience gained in their run to a world championship in 2002, Washburn believes it's all about the here and now.

"People talk about having [playoff] experience and that being valuable, but in '02 we didn't have any experience at all," Washburn said. "I think we can learn from some of the experiences we had in that season, but '02 right now doesn't mean anything. This is 2004 and nothing we did then is going to give us any points toward winning this series. We just have to play good ball and, hopefully, we'll have the same outcome as '02."

Through the 162-game season, Anaheim and Boston each hit .282 to rank at the top of the American League. Schilling will have challenges to conquer and so will Washburn.

"There are some big offensive weapons in the middle of both lineups," Washburn said. "We've got [Troy] Glaus, [Garret] Anderson and Vladimir [Guerrero]. They've got the same thing with some huge offensive threats in the middle of their lineup. Other than that, I think they are quite a bit more patient than we are and I think we run a lot more than they do. There are some similarities, but there are also quite a few differences. It's going to be fun."

Washburn said his focus doesn't change when he's matched against a premier pitcher like Schilling. If the Angels offer him ample run support, he'll gladly take it. But if not, Washburn is preparing to keep his team in the game regardless.

"I go into every game trying to throw a shutout," Washburn said. "Going against Curt, you know you are going to have a very small margin for error. But my job is to limit their lineup to few runs and hopefully zero runs. No matter who I'm pitching against, my job is the same."

Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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