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For Williams, a learning experience
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10/04/2003  7:26 PM ET 
For Williams, a learning experience
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Jerome Williams was the fourth Giants rookie pitcher to start in postseason play. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
MIAMI -- Before Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Saturday, the news that right-hander Jerome Williams was starting for the Giants instead of ace Jason Schmidt loomed as perhaps the biggest story of the day.

But by the time the Giants lost in dramatic fashion on a game-ending play at the plate, most reporters weren't interested in asking the 21-year-old rookie about his outing, which lasted fewer than three innings.

"A little shaky" is how Williams described his outing. "I had a jam in the third inning. It was pretty shaky. I just had to let it go and just sit back and watch, try to support my teammates."

That he did, routinely being the first one out of the dugout to congratulate his teammates as they erased a four-run deficit and nearly mounted a second comeback in the ninth.

"These guys fought the whole year," he said, his eyes just a little red with sadness at the ending of the season. "I just [had] to see that come around, especially today. I just wanted to be there for my teammates. That's why I was the first one out there every time. I wanted to be there."

But Williams wasn't quite as enthusiastic when manager Felipe Alou came out to the mound with none out and two runs already across the plate in the third inning.

A leadoff walk to Luis Castillo proved to be the beginning of Williams' undoing. Ivan Rodriguez doubled home Castillo, and Derrek Lee's subsequent RBI single prompted Alou to take the ball from Williams.

The young pitcher expressed his displeasure in the dugout, punching the back of the bench so hard that he cracked a slat.

"I broke that bench. My hand's all right," he chuckled. "I don't think when I'm mad.

"I left the team in a jam," added Williams, who would have liked to have stayed in the game but understood the decision to remove him. "I felt like I was supposed to go out there with more enthusiasm. I was somewhat upset ... not because of what was happening. I was upset with myself."

Williams didn't know until Saturday morning that he was definitely starting, although his official listing as the scheduled starter never changed, despite the rumblings involving Schmidt.

He had a relatively quiet first inning, allowing a double to Castillo but striking out Lee to end the inning and strand Castillo at third.

In the second, Miguel Cabrera began his torment of the Giants with a leadoff double, and after he was sacrificed to third, Jeff Conine hit a grounder to short that Rich Aurilia bobbled, and Cabrera scored the Marlins' first run, tying the game.

"Jerome will be fine," said Aurilia. "He'll try to use it as a learning experience. You take what you did and build on it, and try to see how you can improve next season. Jerome has a good head on his shoulders. He's going to be fine. He just got in a couple of little jams early today, and we decided to get him out of there before we got behind too much."

Williams' line in his postseason debut: two-plus innings, three runs, five hits, one walk, one strikeout.

The Hawaii-born Williams was one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2003 season for the Giants, jumping into the rotation as an emergency starter and posting a 7-5 record and 3.30 ERA in his freshman campaign. He had two complete games, one of them a shutout.

The Giants' sandwich pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, Williams became just the fourth Giants rookie pitcher to start in postseason play, the first since Cliff Melton got the call twice in the 1937 World Series.

"Experience," said Williams when asked what he would take from Saturday's game. "It gave me the experience to be in postseason play. Now I know how it feels -- how it feels to win and how it feels to lose. So hopefully, in the years to come, we're going to be on the other side -- winning instead of losing."

Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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