Angels' Appier needs October surprise


With 6.23 ERA this month, he starts must-win game


World Series

October 26, 2002|By Peter Schmuck and Joe Christensen | Peter Schmuck and Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - It hasn't been an easy offseason for Anaheim Angels starting pitcher Kevin Appier, but he has been given a chance to make it all better with a strong performance tonight in Game 6 of the 98th World Series at Edison International Field.

Not that he was hoping for anything like the sudden-death challenge that faces him tonight.

"We're backed into a corner now," Appier said. "Obviously, we were hoping to avoid that, but we still have two wins under our belts. Granted, our chances aren't as good as they were a couple of days ago, but we've won two games in a row a lot this year."

The Angels have proved they can win games in bunches, but Appier hasn't proved he can be overpowering in October. He will enter the game with an 0-1 record and 6.23 ERA in four postseason starts this year, and he lasted just two innings in Game 2.

The San Francisco Giants hit three home runs in that game, but the Angels registered the franchise's first World Series victory anyway.

"Most of the problem the other day was execution, and it wasn't even that many pitches," he said. "I didn't execute on a few pitches that they just jumped all over. Those guys can take advantage of any mistakes."

Appier won 14 regular-season games and was a key player in the Angels' strong drive to the wild-card berth they have parlayed into their first World Series appearance, but he hasn't given Angels fans reason to be confident going into tonight's game.

The best thing going for the Angels might be Giants starter Russ Ortiz, who pitched much worse than Appier when the two of them matched up in that exciting Game 2.

Ortiz allowed seven runs on nine hits over only 1 2/3 innings, but that start was the exception to a strong postseason. He'll be well-rested and very motivated to prove it was a fluke.

Neither starting rotation has been very effective during the series. The Angels' and Giants' starters have combined for a frightening 8.93 ERA in the first five games, so no one is expecting Game 6 to be a pitched battle.

Appier has been in a similar situation before, and he has proven that he can handle the heat. He pitched well in two Division Series starts for the Oakland A's in 2000 and was the starter in the decisive game against the New York Yankees.

The A's didn't win, but Appier pitched well in the final game and gave up just four runs over 10 1/3 innings in the two starts.

Teammate Jarrod Washburn complained after a tough outing in Game 5 that the starting pitchers are showing signs of fatigue after a season that has lasted longer than anyone could have expected, but Appier apparently isn't looking for any excuses as he prepares for the biggest game of his life.

"I don't really feel tired at all," he said. "I really haven't thrown that many innings. What have I got, 205 this year? I've thrown a lot more than that."

The Angels would settle for six more, just enough to give their strong offensive lineup a chance to build a lead against Ortiz and set up a climactic Game 7 tomorrow night.

"We still feel good about our chances," first baseman Scott Spiezio said.

Limited practice

The Giants didn't hold a workout yesterday, and after scheduling an optional workout, the Angels didn't hold one, either.

On the plane ride home after Game 5, Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia told his players to take a break.

"We felt it was much more important for these guys to mentally get a rest," Scioscia said.

Dunston back at DH

Giants manager Dusty Baker said Shawon Dunston will be the team's designated hitter tonight, just as he was in Game 2 when Appier started. Dunston is just 1-for-6 in the World Series.

The Angels still hold a clear advantage here. Scioscia will likely use Brad Fullmer as his DH, and Fullmer has three hits in seven at-bats this Series, and a .346 average for the postseason.

Cubs target Baker

The Chicago Cubs are targeting Baker to fill their managerial vacancy, and the team's owner, Tribune Co., has given team executives more money to use to lure him, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry has been given the authority to make whatever offer he deems necessary to get Baker, according to the report. Baker reportedly wants a deal worth $3 million to $4 million a year to leave the Giants.

The Seattle Mariners also have interest in Baker, whose contract expires after the World Series.

Giants owner Peter Magowan has said he wants to determine general manager Brian Sabean's future before considering Baker's fate.

Wire reports contributed to this article.

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