Sunday, October 06, 2002

Playoffs notebook


Livan Hernandez gets another chance

The Associated Press

        SAN FRANCISCO — Livan Hernandez, the 1997 World Series MVP, will get another chance at postseason glory — even if he might not deserve it.

        Hernandez will start Game 4 of the San Francisco Giants' division series against Atlanta despite a 12-16 regular season — the fifth straight season in which he's lost at least 11 games. He pitched 216 innings in 2002 and had three shutouts, but his ERA was over 4.00 in each of the last five months.

        “I never lose in October,” Hernandez said. “I'll try to continue. I like the big games. I've been working hard. This is the time to pitch good. Let's see what happens Sunday.”

        Hernandez's 5-0 career postseason record was more than enough to get him a start from Giants manager Dusty Baker, who's always loyal to his veteran players such as Hernandez, J.T. Snow and Marvin Benard.

        Baker could have gone with a three-man rotation or even started rookie Ryan Jensen, who won 13 games this season. The Giants trail the Braves 2-1 in the series.

        “We have four (starters) that are pretty close and equal in ability,” Baker said. “Nobody really stands out on our staff. We'd much rather go with a rested Livan than somebody else on two or three days' rest.”

        ———

        CALL FROM BIG MAC: With Scott Rolen out for the series, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa got a call from an old third baseman offering to fill in — Mark McGwire.

        McGwire was a third baseman in the Oakland A's minor-league system before eventually landing at first base, where he played for La Russa both in Oakland and St. Louis. A knee injury forced McGwire to retire after St. Louis lost to Arizona in the first round of last year's playoffs.

        On Friday, the day after Rolen was hurt in Game 2 of the NLDS, the 70-homer man called La Russa's office.

        “McGwire asked if he needed to start taking ground balls,” La Russa said, joking that he toyed with calling the commissioner's office to seek an exception to place McGwire on the roster.

        “That would have been something — starting Mark at third base,” La Russa said.

        But what about McGwire's knee?

        “I think his knee is good to play 18 holes — every day,” La Russa said.

        ———

        TIPPED PITCHES: Randy Johnson allowed six runs in the Diamondbacks' Game 1 loss and admits maybe he was tipping his pitches.

        The 24-game winner worked on some mechanical flaws between starts and anticipated better results if Arizona stayed alive against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday night to force a Game 4 on Sunday.

        “It's not the first time I've heard that I was tipping my pitches,” Johnson said. “If anybody has them, I've pitched against (Tony) La Russa and his coaching staff enough times that if there was any kind of flaw I'm sure they would be the first to see that.

        “I'd like to obviously pitch better, I think that goes without saying.”

        Johnson said he didn't offer to pitch in Game 3 on three days' rest, reasoning that the Diamondbacks had to win a game without him and Curt Schilling at some point in the series. Miguel Batista got the start in Game 3.

        “I didn't offer, because I didn't think it was ever a question that came up,” Johnson said.

        ———

        MONKEY BUSINESS: When the rally monkey jumps, the Angels' fans go ape.

        The silly video of a bouncing chimp in an Angels uniform is flashed on the giant screen when Anaheim is trailing and the fans, many with stuffed simians draped around their neck, amp up the cheering volume.

        Making his Anaheim debut on a whim by the Angels staff during a game two years ago, the rally monkey has become a phenomenon at Angels' home games.

        Not accorded official mascot status, the rally monkey still may have eclipsed Mickey Mouse as Anaheim's most popular furred celebrity.

        After the initial video seemed to amuse fans, the Angels had more videos made featuring antics by a trained monkey with some movie experience.

        Asked about playing in Anaheim, the Yankees' Derek Jeter chuckled and said, “Talking about that darned monkey, huh? That rally monkey? Its a fun atmosphere.”

        The video monkey has proven to be a good-luck charm, going 27-11 this season in games when the Angels trailed. In Game 3 of the division series against the Yankees, Anaheim fell behind 6-1, the monkey danced, and the Angels stormed back to win 9-6.

        ———

        QUICK, SOMEBODY BASH A WATER COOLER!: One element missing from this year's playoffs for the four-time defending AL champion New York Yankees is the animated and agitated dugout antics of right fielder Paul O'Neill.

        No one could help but be on edge when he was around — particularly after a failed at-bat by O'Neill.

        “Now that he's gone, we miss that stuff,” manager Joe Torre said of O'Neill, who led the team in last year's ALCS with a .417 average. “When he was here, everybody was critical of the fact that he was hitting things.

        “Yeah, you miss O'Neill, no question. You miss the passion he brings to the table. But I still think we have the right temperament, motivation and hunger. I mean, Derek Jeter is still here, and he's a big part of what's happened in my time here,” Torre said.

        ———

        ADIOS, ENRON: One of the preparations for Saturday's Game 3 at Pacific Bell Park was the removal of an Enron sign on the main center-field scoreboard. It was replaced by Carl's Jr., a giant yellow star sporting a smiley face that's the signature for the fast-food chain.

        A federal bankruptcy judge ruled Thursday that the Giants could remove the sign, featuring Enron Corp.'s tilted “E” logo. Enron only had a regular-season contract on the sign, the team said, so Carl's Jr. purchased the 17-by-33 foot space for the playoffs.

        Under the federal ruling, Enron has until Dec. 2 to find another company to sponsor the sign. The Giants can also look for a new sponsor for the sign for next season.

        ———

        BULLPEN STRUGGLES: Oakland pitcher Ted Lilly has had a difficult time making the transition from starter to middle reliever in the series.

        In his two appearances against the Twins — his first postseason experience — Lilly has yielded six earned runs on 10 hits in four innings of work.

        Lilly came in to face Corey Koskie with one out in the fourth Saturday after the Twins used a combination of hits and Oakland mistakes to chase starter Tim Hudson. He gave up a run-scoring single to Koskie, struck out Ortiz, then surrendered an RBI-double to Torii Hunter and an RBI-single to Doug Mientkiewicz before getting out of the inning.

        “I felt comfortable, but coming out of the bullpen, you have to be great right away,” Lilly said. “There's no time to settle in and get in a groove.”

        He settled down after the fourth, retiring six batters in a row. But Hunter singled to lead off the sixth, then Mientkiewicz homered over the baggie in right field to push the score to 11-2. Lilly gave up two more hits in the inning before being replaced by Micah Bowie.

        “It came down to not executing my pitches,” Lilly said. “There were a couple situations where all we needed was a ground ball to get out of the inning, and I couldn't get it.”

       



Reds Stories
Just win, baby
Overdue comeuppance buries pinstriped glory, myth
Yankees and Diamondbacks knocked out in first round
Angels 9, Yankees 5
Braves 10, Giants 2
Cardinals 6, Diamondbacks 3
Twins 11, Athletics 2
- Playoffs notebook
Reds Q&A with John Fay
Indians hike ticket prices for big games

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