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San Francisco Getting a Giant Lift From Lofton

After going one for 12 in the first three games, he is six for 10 with four runs scored in last two.

October 25, 2002|JASON REID | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- It appears the Angels suddenly have forgotten how to pitch to Kenny Lofton, and that's great news for the San Francisco Giants.

Maybe the Angels just figured Lofton was finished after his shaky performance early in the World Series, but things have clearly changed.

The Angels might consider refocusing on the rejuvenated leadoff batter, who turned back the clock again Thursday night in the Giants' 16-4 rout in Game 5 at Pacific Bell Park.

Lofton ignited the Giant offense and a black-and-orange-clad crowd of 42,713, going three for six with three runs and two runs batted in.

He singled and scored in the first and second innings as the Giants raced to 6-0 lead against Angel left-hander Jarrod Washburn, applying pressure and setting a positive tone for the pitching staff. It didn't matter that right-hander Jason Schmidt was chased after only 4 2/3 innings, because the Giants were rolling with Lofton in high gear for the second game in a row. Not bad for a 35-year-old leadoff batter who appeared even older in the first three games.

"Just trying to put the ball in play," said Lofton, batting .318 in the World Series. "Once you put the ball in play, a lot of things can happen."

Good things are happening for the Giants, who hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series as they return to Edison Field for Game 6 on Saturday.

"Kenny definitely is the sparkplug of this team," right fielder Reggie Sanders said. "He goes out and does the necessary things to get on base and create a lot of havoc. What we've seen the last couple of games are the results of him doing that.

"He's swinging the bat extremely well and that's definitely a good thing to see him do. Tonight, he was great. Kenny was just great all game, and that's what we've seen the last couple of nights. We needed this right now."

After going one for 12 in the first three games, Lofton is six for 10 with four runs scored and the two RBI in the last two. The Giants have pounded 28 hits and scored 20 runs in that span.

"Yeah, Kenny was in that little [slump] to start, but he's a strong individual," Sanders said. "I didn't expect him to stay in it long."

Neither did hitting instructor Gene Clines, who worked closely with Lofton while he was struggling. A couple of mechanical adjustments produced big results, Clines said.

"He really didn't make many adjustments, just a few mechanical things that he needed to," Clines said. "Kenny is a veteran ballplayer who has been in this situation before in his career. This is nothing new to him; you just have to get it corrected.

"Basically, we just worked on Kenny staying within himself. We worked on him trying not to do too much, and for him that means keeping the ball out of the air. He's a much better hitter when he hits line drives. That's what he's doing now."

And the Giants are definitely appreciative.

"He's a great leadoff guy and everyone knows that," Schmidt said of the six-time All-Star. "When you come out and did what he did, the way he got us going, it takes pressure off of the whole team.

"It makes it easier for guys to go out there and just focus on throwing strikes. I struggled a little bit, but the offense really picked us up and he got it started."

That's why General Manager Brian Sabean acquired Lofton from the Chicago White Sox on July 28.

"We wanted to improve at the top of the order, and he's definitely helped this club," Sabean said.

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