-- The 98th World Series is being ruled by one fascinating mathematical formula: The number of runs it takes for the Anaheim Angels to be comfortably ahead of the San Francsico Giants in any given game equals the number of remaining at-bats for Barry Bonds, plus the number of runners on base during those at-bats, plus one.
In Game 3, the outcome was in doubt only as long as Bonds had meaningful at-bats left. Eventually, the Angels' relentless offense took even him out of the equation, rolling to a 10-4 win that felt authoritative and thorough. The Angels now hold a two-games-to-one lead in the series, with Game 4 on Wednesday night.
A crowd of 42,707 witnessed the first World Series game at glittering Pacific Bell Park, groaning as the Angels stormed to an 8-1 lead, roaring when Bonds smashed a two-run homer in the fifth inning that drew the Giants to within four runs, and growing silent as the Angels piled on two more runs with the assistance of the Giants' overtaxed defense.
"We know no lead is safe," said Angels center fielder Darin Erstad, who had three hits and scored two runs. "The idea is to keep pressing and keep pushing. If anything, we up our intensity. Is it a killer instinct? You can call it that. We don't call it that, but we know it's important to keep putting runs on the board."
A series packed with home runs moved tonight to a ballpark where fewer homers, 114, were hit than in any other stadium in baseball this season.
However, there were two more homers and 14 more runs tonight -- on top of the 11 and 28 in the first two games -- further fueling the debate over the constitution of the baseballs being used in the World Series.
After the Angels' 11-10 win in Game 2 in Anaheim -- which included six homers -- several Angels pitchers suggested the balls were harder or wound tighter or perhaps even smaller than balls used in the regular season.
Baseball officials quickly moved to shoot down the claim, saying the balls were the same.
Tonight's game did not provide a definitive answer. The Angels destroyed Giants right-hander Livan Hernandez with their typical assortment of line-drive singles, bloopers, hit-and-runs and patient at-bats. They scored their 10 runs without benefit of a homer, racking up 12 singles, three doubles and a triple, as every batter in their lineup except the pitcher collected at least one hit.
"We went back to our style of ball," said shortstop David Eckstein. "We hit the ball in the gaps and put pressure on them. We're probably the closest thing in the AL to a National League team."
The Giants however, reduced an 8-1 deficit to 8-4 in the fifth inning on a pair of homers by Rich Aurilia and Bonds. The latter was a 437-foot blast to center field with a runner on base, and it gave Bonds a bit of history: He became the first player to hit seven homers in a single postseason. At the resounding crack of the bat, Bonds dropped his bat and admired his towering shot before slowly sauntering toward first base.
Through the first two games of this Series, the teams appeared as evenly matched as possible, each scoring a total of 15 runs and earning one win apiece. But tonight, the Angels batted around in both the third and fourth innings, scoring a total of eight runs and in the process destroying Hernandez's air of October invincibility.
Hernandez entered this start with a well-earned reputation as a mediocre regular season pitcher, but a superstar in the postseason. He carried with him a career postseason record of 6-0 (and his teams were 8-0 in his starts), and trophies as the most valuable player of the 1997 NLCS and World Series, when he carried the Florida Marlins to a championship at the age of 22.
Tonight, he pitched as if it were April.
The Angels' four-run third inning began with a walk to Eckstein, and was built around a pair of exquisitely executed hit-and-run plays during back-to-back at-bats by Troy Glaus and Scott Spiezio, the latter a triple that drove in two runs as it got past Giants right fielder Reggie Sanders.
It cannot be easy to face an Angels lineup in which there are no easy outs -- tonight, even catcher Bengie Molina reached base five times. They batted around in both the third and fourth innings, and have done so six times now in the postseason.
"It's tough for a pitcher," said Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher.
"They're seeing a hot offense, with everyone in lineup swinging the bat well. We don't give you a breather, plus we have guys like Eckstein who make you work so hard."
Hernandez needed 42 pitches to stagger through the third, and he did not make it out of the fourth. Again, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia's aggressive managing was instrumental. With one out, they pulled off a double steal with Erstad on second base and Tim Salmon on first. Thus, when Garret Anderson followed with a sharp grounder to second, it was an RBI groundout rather than a double play. The Angels wound up scoring four more runs. It was 8-1.
The blowout benefited the Angels in so many ways beyond the lead they took in the Series. They were able to rest phenom reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who threw three innings Sunday in Game 2, and closer Troy Percival, both of whom could use the breather.
As for Bonds, the Angels walked him twice, once intentionally, and pitched to him twice, producing a three-pitch strikeout and the homer. The game ended with him in the on-deck circle. But even if he had gotten to the plate, he could not have won or even tied the game: There are no six-run homers in baseball, mathematically speaking.