Down 0-2, Giants circle wagons for last stand Tough losses to Marlins can't shake team's faith

October 03, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MIAMI -- The San Francisco Giants' bandwagon is not as full VTC now, after the Florida Marlins crafted two wrenching victories in their last at-bat in the best-of-five division series. That's just fine with Giants manager Dusty Baker.

"As an athlete -- and as a minority -- you're used to being told what you can't do a lot more than what you can do," Baker said after the Marlins outlasted San Francisco, 7-6, in Game 2 on Wednesday at Pro Player Stadium.

"People jump on and off the bandwagon," Baker said. "You can't worry about something like that. The only thing I ask is: don't slow the wagon down. Jump off the back instead of the front."

By nightfall Wednesday, Baker was trying to put a workable spin on the Giants' predicament. He drew some hope of salvaging the series from the example of the Seattle Mariners, who took a five-game series from the Yankees two years ago after being down 0-2.

"It's hard to take the last breath out of somebody," Baker said. "As long as there's a game remaining, we have a chance."

When play resumes tonight, it will be at 3Com Park, where the Giants are 48-33 this season. Also, dealing with the Bay Area's capricious weather may be disconcerting for the Marlins.

"You can start play and there's no wind," Florida catcher Charles Johnson said. "Then in the fourth or fifth inning, there's wind all over the place. It's a tough place to play."

Said Baker dryly: "That's why it's called a home-field advantage. Home is definitely sweeter than the road."

As this is the Giants' first playoff exposure in eight seasons, Baker expects a raucous welcome for his club -- even if only the staunchest of loyalists remain firmly on the team's bandwagon.

"It'll be good to feel some enthusiasm in the air," Baker said. "Anybody who knows anything about us knows we're not going to roll over."

Game 3 pits two former teammates -- Wilson Alvarez and Alex Fernandez, who were together for five seasons with the Chicago White Sox.

"We used to talk about hitters all the time," the Giants' Alvarez said. "Like what can a certain hitter do in this situation? We're still friends, but when the game starts, he's the enemy."

Said Fernandez, "When I cross the line, there ain't no friends to me."

Alvarez came to the Giants in late July, along with reliever Roberto Hernandez and starter Danny Darwin, for six minor-leaguers.

"As soon as I saw that, I said, 'The Giants are going to be a lot tougher,' " Fernandez said. "The White Sox can say what they want about those minor-leaguers, but you're talking about giving up three established big-league pitchers."

Alvarez is 4-3 since joining the Giants, but he has never faced the Marlins' hitters.

"It's hard when you don't know anybody there," he said. "But whatever the situation, you still have to make good pitches to get them out. That's all I have to do."

Meanwhile, Fernandez (17-12) did not win a game in September in five starts. He was 0-3 with a shaky 5.23 ERA.

"I had some bad outings and I had some good outings," he said. "But a similar thing happened to me with the White Sox in '93 and I threw the ball pretty well in the postseason. So I'm not worried about it."

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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