Purgatory Online

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

So tonight it's Ramon Ortiz vs. Livan Hernandez. The knock on Ortiz is that he's "excitable," and tends to be wild in pressure situations. The main evidence for this seems to be his start against the Yankees in the ALDS, in which he gave up six earned runs on three hits and four walks in 2 2/3 innings. Prior to that, however, he finished the season by going 6-0 in his last nine starts with a 2.77 ERA during a time when the Angels were scrapping for a playoff spot. And after his ALDS start, he went 5 1/3 innings against the Twins in the Metrodome, giving up 3 earned runs on 10 hits - not the greatest numbers, true, but he only walked one, so he wasn't particularly wild. I'd bet that Ortiz's biggest challenge won't be excitement, but rather rust; he hasn't pitched since that game against the Twins on October 9.

Hernandez, meanwhile, gets a lot of mileage with sportswriters because he's undefeated for his career in the postseason. This doesn't spill a lot of beer with me, though, because said postseason appearances prior to this year happened entirely in 1997 and don't seem to have much bearing on how good he's going to be tonight. Admittedly, he was great that year (except, oddly, in the World Series, when he was the Series MVP despite a 5.27 ERA, 15 hits, and 10 walks in 13 2/3 innings pitched). When you look at his recent starts, though, it is clear that he's throwing pretty well. He had a few bad games in June and July, and some kind of meltdown against the Dodgers at the end of September, but clearly he's capable of pitching well for several innings.

Given that Pac Bell is considered quite the pitcher's park, we may have the opposite of Game 2 - fast and low-scoring. The keys for the Angels will be getting Ortiz to throw strikes early in the count and keep Lofton, Aurelia, and Kent off the bases, and for Salmon, Anderson, and Glaus to shorten their swings a little and punch the ball instead of going for the fences. Making productive outs is something at which the Angels excel - in Game 2, they didn't strike out at all. If they do that again tonight, they've got a chance.