10/02/2002 01:58 am ET
Pen confident despite blown lead
Relievers lose 5-4 lead but want ball again
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera, one of the greatest relievers pitchers in postseason history, admitted this week that aside from Troy Percival, he'd never heard of any of the members of the Angels' bullpen.
Apparently Rivera isn't much of a stat hound, because if he scoured the box scores every day this year, he'd realize that the no-names with the halos on their caps made up the best relief corps in the American League.
The Angels made the playoffs for the first time in 16 years in large part because of the bullpen, which had a 27-16 record and a league-best 2.98 ERA.
Those are the facts Ben Weber, Scott Schoeneweis, and Brendan Donnelly took back to their hotel after blowing a 5-4 lead in the eighth inning of Tuesday night's game, which led to an 8-5 loss to the Yankees in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
"Baseball's a game where you have to have a short memory," said Donnelly, who was brought into a 5-5 tie in the eighth inning and surrendered the game-winning three-run home run to Bernie Williams, the first batter he faced.
"I was going fastball in, he fouled off some pitches, and he's a good hitter," Donnelly added. "He got it."
Donnelly wouldn't have been in that situation if not for the failure of Weber to nail down a third out with the 5-4 lead after retiring Rondell White and John Vander Wal to start the eighth.
Weber got notorious free swinger Alfonso Soriano to whiff at two straight sliders to go to 0-2, but Soriano took the next four sliders for balls and walked.
"I threw him six straight sliders and I usually don't do that," Weber said. "I had him 0-2 and walked him. We know he's a hacker, but he was patient. I don't know how, but he was. ... That obviously killed us right there."
Well, not exactly.
Weber walked Derek Jeter right after that, putting runners on first and second for slugger Jason Giambi, who already had a single and a two-run homer.
Giambi bats left-handed, so instead of bringing in closer Percival early to face a guy he'd struck out all five times he'd faced him, Angels manager Mike Scioscia went to his lefty, Schoeneweis.
That didn't work either.
Schoeneweis got him to 1-2, then 2-2, before Giambi punched an inside fastball for a hard one-hopper that glanced off first baseman Scott Spiezio's glove into right field for the tying run.
"He's a great hitter," Schoeneweis said. "I thought I made a good pitch, but he's a real strong guy, he put it in play, and things didn't go our way. I'll tip my cap to him and go get him tomorrow."
That was pretty much the attitude for every member of Tuesday's trumped trio.
Donnelly, Weber and Schoeneweis said they've seen their team come too far this season to let losses distract them from their job.
"With this group, we're able to come back, play the same game, and hopefully turn the tables," Donnelly said. "We've been doing that all year long."
"We've been getting it done and tonight we didn't," Weber said.
"But you can't harp on it, because if you do, it'll just eat you up."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.