09/23/2003 9:13 PM ET
Notes: Giants showing no fear
HOUSTON -- Giants manager Felipe Alou has seen a lot of baseball in his 68 years, and he often prefers not to compare teams and players from different eras.
But this is now, and he loves this San Francisco team and its chances in postseason play.
Bring on Florida. Bring on Chicago. Bring 'em all on and see what happens.
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
"We knew we wouldn't be fighting for the Wild Card long ago when he had a 12-, 13-game lead," said Alou. "We can beat anybody in the league, but if we don't hit or play good defense we can beat ourselves. We are a good club, a club that dominated the division. The West was supposed to be a monster, but we dominated everybody.
"If we play well, play baseball the way we have all year, we're gonna win," said Alou, who rarely paid attention to Wild Card races until recently, when the Giants faced the likes of contenders Los Angeles and Houston. Like it or not, San Francisco is a factor down the stretch for other clubs.
Yet Alou is not afraid of possible opponents.
"You still have to play them, and the worst thing you can do is face a team you fear," said the manager. "That's half the battle. I don't care who we play."
Regardless of the foe, Alou says it's important not to mix and match his players down the stretch. He'd rather rest them as a whole. He wants Rich Aurilia and Ray Durham to stay in sync at short and second. He wants the outfielders to stay together since they know each other's nuances.
That's why the No. 1 lineup has been featured Monday and Tuesday against Houston, while the No. 2 guys will play Wednesday's day game, giving the regulars a rest prior to flying home for Thursday's off-day.
Team MVP: Alou is quick to say Barry Bonds is the team's most valuable player -- probably in the league as well -- but he insists that starting pitcher Jason Schmidt is a contender for the honor as well.
"You take away his 16 wins and where does that put us -- fighting for the Wild Card right now," said Alou. "Pitchers should be eligible for the MVP, because they wear the same uniforms."
Alou admits Schmidt has to win 17 games to win the National League Cy Young award, especially with the Dodgers' Eric Gagne sporting 53 saves in 53 opportunities.
Benard to start: Veteran Marvin Benard is battling for a spot on the playoff roster and would love to play more. He's pinch-hit in his last nine appearances, going 2-for-4 in his previous four at-bats. He is 2-for-8 overall with a sacrifice bunt.
"We definitely have him in mind for the roster," said Alou, who will give the oft-injured Benard a start, probably in right field, in Wednesday's contest.
The hill: Giants trainer Stan Conte is not enamored with the large mound in center field at Minute Maid Park, just past the warning track but still in play.
"I don't understand why Major League Baseball allows a safety hazard on the field," said Conte, a day after watching Marquis Grissom fall on the hill after dropping a fly ball. "I think what we ought to do next year is to put some little mines in the outfield and just watch outfielders blow up. It'll be a little more exciting -- not that I have an opinion about it.
"If you happen to get up the hill and not blow out your leg, you could hit the flag pole with your head."
Grissom said the fly by Richard Hidalgo in the fourth inning Monday hit the heel of his glove, then popped out.
He refused to blame the hill.
"It's part of the field, and you have to prepare for it," he said. "I didn't. I'm not going to use that hill as an excuse. Hill or no hill, you have to make the catch."
Coming up: The Giants conclude the three-game series against Houston with an 11:05 a.m. PT game at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday. They will have an off-day Thursday, then host the Los Angeles Dodgers in the final homestand of the regular campaign in a four-game set.
Friday's 7:15 p.m. PT opener will feature lefty Kirk Rueter on the hill. Because of an earlier rainout at Pacific Bell Park, the Giants will play a doubleheader Saturday, the first game at 1:05 p.m. PT and the second one tentatively set for 7:15 p.m.
Pitchers for the twin bill have not been named.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
"The worst thing you can do is face a team you fear."
-- Felipe Alou