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Leaders of the Pac

Relentless Angels pile up 16 more hits and take a 2-1 advantage over Giants

October 23, 2002|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- The rally monkey, not invited to perform on enemy property, must have sneaked into Pacific Bell Park and commandeered the sound system. There can be no other explanation for the bizarre musical selection during the sixth inning of Game 3 of the World Series Tuesday, when out of the speakers suddenly blared the song "Seein' Red."

Oh, the San Francisco Giants saw red all right, all night. The Giants saw the men in red get hit after hit after hit. They saw the men in red circle the bases again and again. They saw the men in red bat around in the third inning, and again in the fourth, becoming the first team in World Series history to bat around in consecutive innings.

The men in red are halfway to the World Series championship. With 16 hits, including three from Darin Erstad and at least one from every starter except their pitcher, the Angels pummeled the Giants, 10-4. The rout was so thorough that, by the end, the Giant fans resembled nothing so much as Dodger fans. Beat the Angels? No? Well, then, beat the traffic and leave early.

"They just kicked our butts, no two ways about it," San Francisco shortstop Rich Aurilia said. "They beat us every way they could. At this point, I would say I've never seen a better-hitting team."

The Angels, batting .353 in the World Series and .335 in postseason play, lead the best-of-seven series two games to one. Now come their two hottest pitchers -- John Lackey in Game 4 tonight and Jarrod Washburn in Game 5 Thursday -- so they could win the World Series without returning to Edison Field.

"The guys are making it look easy," Washburn said. "I'm happy for them. If they keep hitting the ball like that for two more games, they can take a nice long break."

The Angels are 0-3 in playoff openers this fall and 9-0 in all other playoff games. In October, the month in which offenses are traditionally hampered by cool weather and hot pitchers, the Angels are averaging seven runs per game. In 12 postseason games, they have batted around six times.

"That's what you're shooting for," Erstad said, "but it doesn't work like that very often."

Barry Bonds hit his nightly home run, a majestic shot estimated at 437 feet -- some 48 feet less than the one he hit Sunday in Anaheim. He is the first player to hit a home run in each of his first three World Series games. At this point, his feats are those of a cartoon superhero.

But the team that hit no home runs Tuesday is the team within two victories of winning rings. They weren't supposed to win without the designated hitter in their lineup, but they did. They weren't supposed to be able to score runs during these cool, damp Bay Area evenings, but they did. San Francisco starter Livan Hernandez never had lost a postseason game, but he did.

The Angels battered him for six runs before excusing him in the fourth inning. Erstad's three hits moved him within three of the record for a single postseason. First baseman Scott Spiezio drove in three runs, moving him within three of the record for a single postseason. Bengie Molina became the first catcher in World Series history to reach base five times in a game without making out, on two singles and three walks, two of them intentional.

The Angels did not score until the third inning, but they weakened Hernandez in the second, forcing him to throw 26 pitches. In the third, he threw 41 pitches. By the time he departed, with two out in the fourth, he had thrown an astounding 92 pitches.

The Angels don't walk much. They don't strike out much. They simply hit.

David Eckstein started the third inning with a walk, forcing Hernandez to throw six pitches. Erstad followed with a double, on the fifth pitch. Tim Salmon reached safely on an error, on a ground ball on the fifth pitch, with Eckstein scoring.

Troy Glaus singled home a run, on a hit-and-run. Spiezio tripled home two more, on a line drive that kept on rolling, in the endless space that is right-center field at Pacific Bell Park.

The Angels won not only with their bats, but with their legs and smarts too. In the fourth inning, with Erstad on second and Salmon on first, Erstad called his own double steal, figuring that Hernandez might throw a breaking ball to Garret Anderson. The double steal worked, and three hits later the Angels had themselves another four-run inning.

This isn't supposed to be easy, you know, this October baseball stuff. The Angels know too.

Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, the man responsible for the offense, simply shakes his head in wonder. Not even the best strategies work this well.

"I can't explain what's going on," he said. "The guys can't even find me right now. I'm afraid I might tell them something wrong."

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