09/30/2003 5:56 PM ET
Schmidt has recipe for Fish batters
Complete-game shutout gives Giants 1-0 series lead
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- In the 2002 World Series, pitching under the intense spotlight on baseball's biggest stage, it hit Giants pitcher Jason Schmidt like a thunderbolt:
This is what real pitching is all about. This is what turns a good pitcher into a great one.
It's obvious that the 30-year-old right-hander soaked in the revelation and made the transition.
In a magnificent performance on Tuesday, Schmidt threw the game of his life, a complete-game three-hitter over the Florida Marlins, as the Giants took a 1-0 lead in the National League Division Series after a 2-0 blanking.
"I felt like I learned a lot more those last two games of the World Series than I did my whole career as far as preparing for the game, controlling your emotions on the mound, the way you face hitters in certain situations," said the tall, cool-as-can-be fireballer.
Nobody expected anything different in Game 1: a pitching duel, tight all the way, low-scoring, seat-of-your-pants drama on every pitch.
It was exactly that, with Schmidt and 23-year-old Josh Beckett matching three scoreless innings, but as the game wore on, the youngster started to crack -- just barely, yet just enough.
Schmidt, though, seemed to thrive in the pressure-cooker atmosphere, improving rather than weakening as the innings mounted to become the fifth NL hurler to toss a shutout in Division Series play.
"I definitely knew it was going to be a close game," said the eight-year veteran. "I was just hoping it came out on our end. Facing Beckett ... I compared him to Curt Schilling. He threw every bit like it today. Luckily for us, we came out and got a couple of runs. You don't want to face that guy twice in a series."
Schmidt won a career-high 17 games for the Giants this year with a fearsome fastball and pinpoint control, and the ace was in total command against the Marlins.
Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti, who announced that Sidney Ponson would be the Game 2 starter on Wednesday, marveled at Schmidt's dominating effort.
"Both pitchers fed off each other a little bit, and they throw an awful lot alike," said Righetti. "It was tremendous. In a game like that, an early need is huge. We're used to that. But Schmidt showed why he was the best starter in baseball this year.
"To start a series and get us off on the right foot, this is probably the best game he's pitched," added the coach. "Once Jason gets through the lineup once, he gets a little more comfortable. You never know in this game, but great players make you beat 'em."
Beckett (0-1) also did well, allowing only two hits while striking out eight over seven frames. But the fourth inning proved critical, as he faced the dilemma every opposing pitcher does when Giants bomber Barry Bonds is at the plate.
Pitch to him ... or walk him?
Either way, Bonds tends to make the opposition pay, for while an intentional stroll takes away his bat, his feet are still in good working order.
As the opener showed.
In the fourth inning, Beckett walked Rich Aurilia, then gave Bonds a purposeful walk. Edgardo Alfonzo bunted for a base hit, moving over the runners.
But the throw to first by Marlins third sacker Miguel Cabrera skipped wide, allowing Aurilia to score.
The Marlins threatened in the fifth, when Jeff Conine singled and Aurilia muffed a possible double-play ball on Alex Gonzalez's grounder. A nice sac bunt by Beckett pushed along the runners, but Juan Pierre flied out to right, ending the inning.
Beckett had his fastball working early, as he fanned eight Giants over four frames, including striking out the side in the third -- Schmidt, Ray Durham and J.T. Snow -- but Florida couldn't muster much support against the San Francisco starter.
In the eighth, another Bonds decision came back to haunt the Marlins. With two outs and the bases empty, Bonds was walked intentionally for the second time, then he stole second, setting up Alfonzo's game-clinching RBI double off the left center-field wall.
Ponson sat on his clubhouse stool, smiling. He would be the starter on Wednesday as originally planned, and he loved watching Schmidt in his business suit shutting out the Marlins.
"Hopefully, I can do seven or eight good innings for our ballclub," said the right-hander. "Jason dominated them today. I have to go out there and pitch my game and not get too excited or too nervous. It's my first playoff game, and I'm looking foward to it."
Schmidt's effort marked the Giants' 45th postseason complete game, the last coming from Mike Krukow in Game 4 of the 1987 NLCS vs. St. Louis, on Oct. 10 at Candlestick Park.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.