One writer’s post-series view

The World Series finished in memorable fashion on Sunday night with the Anaheim Angels defeating the San Francisco Giants, 4-1. In all sports the most challenging thing is to come up big in the clutch, and this series was no different. Mr. Clutch is whoever comes through for their team come playoffs and World Series time.

Reggie Jackson was called Mr. Clutch when he hit three home runs in the World Series in the early ’80s. Kirk Gibson was Mr. Clutch for the L.A. Dodgers in the 1988 World Series, hitting a bottom-of-the-ninth, two-out pitch over the right field wall (doctors said he couldn’t play the game, much less the series, with two bad knees). Derek Jeter, Luis Gonzalez and Mariano Rivera have all been referred to as clutch players in recent World Series games.

Usually it is the culmination of years of hard work to perform on baseball’s grandest stage, but it was a few rookies who did it for the Angels this time. Francisco Rodriguez and John Lackey were stellar in their pitching performances for the Angels. Mike Scioscia, coaching in his first playoff and World Series games, made the right calls when he needed to. All rookies in the World Series, each came up clutch for their team.

�� ���On the flip side of the coin, the Giants was a veteran ball club. The Giants have the best player since Babe Ruth in Barry Bonds. Kenny Lofton, the All-Star center fielder and lead-off hitter who has World Series experience with Cleveland, was added to the roster in the middle of the season. Reggie Sanders, who played for the World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks last year, was batting sixth, two behind Bonds. Livan Hernandez, who came into the post season with a 6-0 record in playoff games and a game 7 start in the World Series with the Marlins. Rob Nen is one of baseball’s preeminent closers with 42 saves this year and a 2.20 ERA.

How did this happen?

How did the Angels beat the Giants given all the facts about the teams?

Given the rookies the Angels had and veterans the Giants had, why did the Giants lose?

How did the Angels win the World Series trailing by five runs in the seventh inning of game six, an elimination game?

This was not supposed to happen. The only possible explanation is Mr. Clutch!

Some people are great and some people have greatness thrust upon them. In baseball, that is called clutch.

The Angels: John Lackey became the first rookie starter to win a game 7 of the World Series since 1909. He pitched on three days rest, and only three pitchers in history have won a game 7 on three days rest.


The Giants: Livan Hernandez had the shortest start by any pitcher in a game 7 since 1960. Not so clutch.

The Angels: Francisco Rodriguez, the 20-year-old rookie Venezuelan, pitched perhaps the most dominating post-season in history. He had a 2.08 ERA, and the Giants batted a paltry .194 average against him. He allowed only one home run, to Barry Bonds. He pitched in the pivotal game six, an elimination game, and game seven. Each outing when the Angels needed someone to quiet the Giants bats.

Very clutch.

The Giants: Barry. In one the most productive World Series ever, his first, Barry Bonds went 8-17 (.471) with 4 home runs, six RBIs, eight runs, 13 walks and 1.294 slugging percentage. The only other player ever to have a World Series as productive was Lou Gehrig, in 1928! Hitting behind Babe Ruth! Too bad he bobbled a ball the eighth inning of game 6 that continued the Angels rally.

Clutch, but not enough.

The Angels: They have two guys names Troy. One was lights-out in save opportunities (Percival), averaging 96 mph on his fastball. The other was World Series MVP Troy Glaus, a .385 average, three home runs, eight RBIs, seven runs and six extra base hits. They also have two guys named Benji, but the other is spelled Bengie, go figure? One of them had the game-tying hit in game 7.

The Giants: Rob Nen blew a save opportunity in the crucial sixth game. He was the ninth closer in the division.

Choke, not clutch.

Not much else can be said about this World Series, except the Angels have a rookie pitcher named Brendan Donnelly who also came up in the clutch. He allowed zero runs in the World Series, and he set up Rodriguez and Percival. That’s three rookies who weren’t on the Angels staff on opening day; they won eight of the Angels’ 11 post-season victories. One word: clutch.