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When the Hits Just Kept Coming

Maddon's "our guys absolutely feed off each other" belief perhaps best describes record-setting seventh inning featuring 10 runs and 10 hits.

October 14, 2002|Mike DiGiovanna | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The only way bench coach Joe Maddon can explain the Angels' 10-run, 10-hit, 15-batter, 15-minute, 917-high-five, scream-until-your-voice-is-hoarse, record-setting seventh inning Sunday is that "our guys absolutely feed off each other."

If that's the case, it's a wonder there was anything left of the Angels but flesh and bones after their piranha-like frenzy in the seventh, when they obliterated a two-run deficit with a league championship series-record 10-spot en route to an American League pennant-clinching 13-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

"You've got to see their faces, the looks in their eyes," Maddon said of the relentless Angels, who tied a postseason record for runs in an inning, set by the 1929 Philadelphia Athletics and the 1968 Detroit Tigers.

"You see a determination. It's, 'I can do this, I believe, yes we can,' all those things. There's no 'I' in this club. I know that's a cliche, but it's true. It's what every coach wants to get from a group. It's an absolute blast."

It was a blast from the not-too-distant past. Only eight days before Sunday, in Game 4 of the division series against New York, the Angels stunned the Yankees with an eight-run, 10-hit fifth inning, in which they sent 13 batters to the plate.

But the Angels took it to another level Sunday, ascending to seventh heaven, with Adam Kennedy's dramatic three-run home run highlighting an explosive inning that vaulted them to their first World Series berth in the 42-year star-crossed history of the franchise.

"I don't think our guys wanted the inning to be over," said Angel batting instructor Mickey Hatcher, whose rally cap went haywire in the seventh. "We just kept hitting and hitting ... even our clubhouse guys wanted to go up there and hit."

The Twins had scored three runs in the top of the seventh, knocking the bullet-proof vest off Angel phenom Francisco Rodriguez, who walked in the tying run, allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch and another to score on a sacrifice fly, as Minnesota took a 5-3 lead.

But Scott Spiezio led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to right-center off left-handed reliever Johan Santana, and Bengie Molina slapped a full-count pitch to left for a single.

Up stepped Kennedy, who had homered in the third and fifth innings but bunted the first pitch foul against Santana. Manager Mike Scioscia took off the bunt and Kennedy fouled off two more pitches before hammering an 0-and-2 pitch over the wall in right-center for his third home run and a 6-5 lead.

The Angels, it turned out, were just getting warmed up.

David Eckstein greeted reliever LaTroy Hawkins with an infield single, Darin Erstad singled to left-center, and Tim Salmon singled to load the bases.

Twin Manager Ron Gardenhire summoned left-hander J.C. Romero to face the left-handed-hitting Garret Anderson, who drew a walk to force in a run for a 7-5 lead. Troy Glaus struck out, but Shawn Wooten lined an RBI single to right for an 8-5 lead.

Alex Ochoa, who replaced Salmon as a pinch-runner, scored on Romero's wild pitch for a 9-5 lead, and Spiezio, who has a team-leading 11 RBIs in the postseason, lined a two-run single to left-center to make it 11-5.

Romero was pulled for Bob Wells, and Chone Figgins, who had run for Molina earlier in the inning, singled to left. Kennedy singled to left to load the bases, Eckstein was hit by a pitch to force in a run, and Erstad's RBI groundout made it 13-5.

The mercy rule was not in effect, but the inning finally ended with Ochoa's strikeout.

"We wanted to keep pushing runs across because you can never get enough," Salmon said. "A.K. came up with the big hit to put us up, but we wanted to keep adding nails to the coffin. It was awesome watching all those runs cross the plate, because we could really relax and start thinking about clinching this thing at home."

The Angels hit .290 with runners in scoring position during the season, so it wasn't shocking that they had five hits with runners in scoring position in the seventh.

"You don't always expect that to happen," Scioscia said of the barrage. "But I wouldn't put anything past this group."

Neither could the Twin pitchers.

"Everyone's a battler on this team, no one's a quitter," Molina said. "No one wants to make the last out."

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