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The Angels Come Back for Game 7

When all seems lost, yet another late rally for a 6-5 win sets the stage for the Series finale today.

October 27, 2002|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

The baseball seemed to hang forever, drifting across the October night, even as the crowd began to roar.

By the time it fell to the ground, untouched, splashing against the outfield fence, the Anaheim Angels were on their way to another improbable victory, on their way to Game 7 of the World Series.

For this latest miracle in a season of miracles, the Angels trailed by five runs and appeared all but finished before scrambling back for a 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 6 at Edison Field on Saturday night.

The game-winner came from third baseman Troy Glaus, who hit a long, looping, two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning.

"That was our goal -- to get to Game 7," Glaus said. "Now we've given ourselves that chance and we'll see what happens."

Tonight's deciding game at Edison means one more chance for the Angels to win a Series no one guessed they would be anywhere near.

One more chance for Giant slugger Barry Bonds -- who hit a towering homer but also made a crucial fielding error -- to prove he can lead his team to a title.

One more chance for Angel fans to savor a storybook season worthy of the team's owner, the Walt Disney Co.

"That's not baseball we saw, that was theater," Champ Gabler, 57, of Victorville, said. "And that's the best stage in the whole world."

The spotlight tonight will be on a pair of offenses that have scored runs by the handfuls.

It will also shine on two starting pitchers, John Lackey for the Angels and Livan Hernandez for the Giants, who have been less than stellar in the Series.

The Edison Field crowd will be there to witness the drama.

On Saturday, the fans seemed tentative at first, subdued by the fact their team had lost twice in a row to trail in the Series, three games to two.

By contrast, the streets of downtown San Francisco were crowded with fans decked in orange and black, streaming into sports bars and filling a park where they watched the game on a 20-foot television screen.

Mayor Willie Brown, on hand to address his constituents, referred to a wager -- something to do with headwear -- that he had made with his Anaheim counterpart.

"He will be wearing my fedora," Brown said.

And for much of the night, it seemed Brown would be right.

The Giants took a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning when Shawon Dunston hit a two-run homer and Kenny Lofton scored on a wild pitch. Bonds followed with a homer in the next inning.

By the bottom of the seventh, the Angels trailed 5-0 and even the Anaheim faithful, who had witnessed their team rally for victories dozens of times this season, were concerned.

"I sank down in my seat a little bit," said Blaine Pollard, 27, of Chino Hills.

But the Angels had been in this predicament before, during the regular season and the playoffs. So often, they had put together unexpected rallies.

This turnaround began with Scott Spiezio's three-run homer in the seventh and continued with Darin Erstad's solo home run in the eighth. A few batters later, Glaus drove a pitch to deep left-center. Ironically, it was Bonds who sprinted for the ball only to watch it sail just beyond his reach.

"This is the best feeling in the world," said Mike Ashcraft, 27, of Santa Ana, among a crowd that literally danced in the stands after the final out.

This is the second consecutive year the season has ended with a Game 7. Last fall, the Arizona Diamondbacks scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the New York Yankees, 3-2, in a thrilling upset.

Now this series -- a so-called interstate battle of north versus south that has commanded the attention of Californians, if not the rest of the nation -- has a similar chance to make memories.

"One thing about this club, we always come back after tough losses," Giant Manager Dusty Baker said. "We've been doing it over and over. It just seems like it never comes easy and we never do it easy. We knew it was going to be a tough day today. Here we are going to Game 7."

If only Baker could convince the people on the San Francisco streets, cheering most of the night, but suddenly quiet after the Angels' comeback.

Their team, after all, has been to the Series only twice since it moved west from New York in 1958--and lost both times.

"You are six outs away from something this city has never seen," Gary Ayers, 32, of San Bruno said. "And to see it taken away is pretty disappointing."

With the Series tied at three games each, Mayor Brown faces the distinct possibility of losing his bet and wearing a cowboy hat while the Angels and their fans are understandably optimistic.

"This is what we all play for," Glaus said. "To be in the last game of the World Series with a chance to win."

*

Times staff writer Kimi Yoshino and correspondent Chris O'Connell contributed to this report.

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