- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO The kid is mortal after all.

Stuck in a tie game with their season essentially hanging in the balance, the San Francisco Giants won Game 4 of the World Series last night by doing what no one else has been able to this month. They beat Anaheim Angels phenom Francisco Rodriguez.

David Bell drilled an eighth-inning single up the middle off the 20-year-old rookie reliever, and J.T. Snow scored the winning run from second in the Giants' 4-3 victory at Pac Bell Park.

Facing the very real possibility of an insurmountable, 3-1 deficit in games, San Francisco instead knotted the Series at 2-2 with a crucial Game 5 tonight.

That the Giants came back from three runs down early to win a game was no surprise; they've been doing it all season.

That they did it against the most dominant pitcher of this postseason was the biggest shock, and the biggest reason last night's crowd of 42,703 reacted as though San Francisco had already clinched its first title in 48 years.

"You might be a little spoiled by Francisco because he's virtually gotten everybody out," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We know that's not the life of a pitcher for the most part. Occasionally, you're going to give up hits no matter who you are."

What briefly had the makings of another slugfest turned into a battle of bullpens. And once again, Rodriguez was the man right in the middle of everything.

The right-hander entered in the seventh inning of a 3-3 game with the memory of his perfect, three-inning stint from Game 2 still fresh in everyone's minds. And he began creating some new memories by again retiring the side in order including getting Barry Bonds to ground out the only time he was pitched to all night.

"I didn't need to see Barry hit any more homers," Scioscia said. "Right now, he's locked in. So if there's an opportunity for us to pitch to Benito [Santiago] or J.T. [Snow] or whoever, we're going to do it."

But where the Giants' slugger failed, his lesser-known teammates succeeded. Snow led off the eighth with a single to right field, then moved to second on a passed ball by catcher Bengie Molina. Bell, San Francisco's No.8 hitter, then lined Rodriguez's 1-0 pitch up the middle, Snow scoring easily ahead of Darin Erstad's off-line throw.

"The 8-spot is a very important spot, and that's why he's there," Giants manager Dusty Baker said. "That was a very big spot tonight."

Robb Nen then came in to close out the game for the Giants, getting pinch hitter Brad Fullmer to ground into a game-ending double play, securing the win for fellow reliever Tim Worrell.

This World Series has been ripe with suspect starting pitching, and last night only furthered that trend. San Francisco veteran Kirk Rueter and Anaheim rookie John Lackey both put themselves in tight jams early on. Ultimately, both paid the price, though they managed never to let things get out of hand.

Rueter, the Giants' No.4 starter for this Series even though he had the staff's lowest ERA during the season (3.23), loaded the bases in the second inning by surrendering singles to the bottom third of the Angels' lineup. Benji Gil, making his first appearance of the series as Adam Kennedy's platoon partner at second base, Molina and Lackey all singled off the apparently astonished Rueter.

Maybe the San Francisco lefty shouldn't have been all that surprised by his counterpart's prodigious bat. Lackey has no major league experience at the plate, but the 6-foot-6, 205-pounder hit .428 with 15 homers and 81 RBI three years ago at Grayson Community College in Denison, Texas.

Despite his troubles with the bottom of the Anaheim order, Rueter rebounded against the top, getting David Eckstein to hit a sacrifice fly and Erstad to end the inning on a groundout.

He wasn't quite as fortunate in the third, when he left a 2-0 fastball over the plate to Troy Glaus. The Angels third baseman crushed it for a two-run homer to center field, adding yet another monstrous blast to his October resume. Glaus may not get the kind of publicity Bonds has this month, but he's been just as productive. Last night's homer was his third of the series and seventh of the postseason, tying the record set by Bonds the night before.

Up 3-0 and pounding the ball all over the park yet again, the Angels appeared headed for perhaps another easy victory. But Rueter settled down after the shaky third and faced the minimum over the next three innings before being lifted. He actually wound up becoming the first starting pitcher in this series to make it through six innings.

"You can't start thinking that here we go again," Baker said. "You have to think this is the end of it. You have to remain positive."

Lackey, pitching on his 24th birthday, managed to dodge bullets (and Bonds) for four innings before finally succumbing in the fifth.

Seeking to become the first player ever to homer in four straight World Series games, Bonds wasn't even given a chance to take the bat off his shoulders early on. Anaheim intentionally walked him his first three trips to the plate, twice with one out and two runners on base, once with one out and a runner on second.

Just as the Braves and Cardinals had before them, the Angels chose leave the game not in the hands of Bonds, but of Santiago. The Giants' veteran catcher thrived under such situations in the National League Championship Series, earning MVP honors. But he has been far less productive in the World Series, carrying a .154 average and RBI into last night's game.

Those numbers were only made worse when Santiago responded to a pair of early bases-loaded situations by grounding into inning-ending double plays, both started by Anaheim shortstop Eckstein.

In the fifth, Lackey got himself in trouble before Bonds ever came to the plate. Rueter led off by beating out a weak grounder, and Kenny Lofton followed with a perfect bunt single that just nicked the chalk of the third-base line before Glaus picked it up. Rich Aurilia singled in the Giants' first run, and Jeff Kent's sacrifice fly brought home another.

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