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7 the Hard Way

Angels pull off their most amazing rally and take the Series to the limit

October 27, 2002|Bill Shaikin

The baseball season was tired, worn out, ready for a long winter's nap. Old Man Baseball had just about set his head on his pillow when the Angels yanked the pillow aside, shook him out of his slumber and yelled into his ear the most magical words in the sport:

Game 7!

In a glorious game that will be replayed and retold in Southern California for generations to come, and in a comeback unprecedented in World Series history, the Angels scored six runs in their final two at-bats Saturday night in a stunning 6-5 victory over the San Francisco Giants.

The Angels, eight outs from elimination, forced a decisive seventh game by roaring back from a 5-0 deficit with three runs in the seventh inning and three more in the eighth. Scott Spiezio resuscitated the Angels with a three-run homer in the seventh, Troy Glaus delivered the game-winning double in the eighth, and the Angels lived to play the game of the childhood dreams.

"Hopefully, we'll have the hero," Angel second baseman Adam Kennedy said. "That's what we've all been dreaming about forever, the chance to say we were a hero in Game 7."

The Angels, facing an elimination game for the first time this October, made history in victory. Never before had a team trailed by five runs in a World Series elimination game and come back to win.

Of their 10 postseason victories, the Angels have come from behind in seven. In Game 3 of the division series, they came back from five runs down against the New York Yankees. In Game 2 of the World Series, the previous most amazing game in franchise history, the Angels blew a 5-0 lead and won 11-10.

"Wow," center fielder Darin Erstad said. "This is borderline getting a little crazy."

Said Kennedy: "Pick any game in the whole playoffs, and people have said this is the best game they've ever seen. Here's another one. I hope we have one more in us."

There was a sense that this one was something incredibly special, one players and fans will share with their children and grandchildren.

Barry Bonds hit a home run. The Giants' Shawon Dunston hit a home run too, circled the bases, crossed the plate and kissed his batboy son, 10-year-old Shawon Jr.

Spiezio, whose father Ed owns two World Series championship rings, hit the home run that revived hope he could win one of his own. Brendan Donnelly, who endured a decade in the minor leagues and recurrent unemployment in the sport he loved, earned a victory in the World Series.

This is not about a monkey on the scoreboard. This is about a game so remarkable that a sellout crowd of 44,506, which stood upon Spiezio's home run and never again sat down or shut up, produced such a joyful noise that Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said he could compare it only to that most hallowed of Southern California baseball moments, Kirk Gibson's pinch-hit home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium.

"There was about as much electricity in that stadium as there ever was," Scioscia said. "I think tonight surpassed that."

The Angel offense, in overdrive throughout October, had suddenly sputtered. San Francisco starter Russ Ortiz, routed for nine hits in 1 2/3 innings in Game 2, pitched a two-hit shutout through six innings.

At that point, the Angels had failed to score in 19 of 21 innings. When Garret Anderson grounded out to start the seventh, the Giants were eight outs away from the World Series championship.

But Glaus singled, and Brad Fullmer singled, and the Giants promptly removed Ortiz, with a 5-0 lead.

The Giants summoned Felix Rodriguez, who has pitched in every game of the Series and 13 of their 16 playoff games. Spiezio worked the count full, and beyond, fouling off four pitches. On the eighth pitch, Spiezio yanked a home run that just made it into the right-field seats.

"I was praying," he said. "I was just saying, 'God, please just get over the fence.' "

Just like that, Spiezio kept hope alive. But San Francisco still led after seven innings, 5-3, six outs to a championship.

As the Giants batted in the top of the eighth, Tim Salmon said he stood in right field and thought, ever so briefly, about whether his next at-bat "could be my last at-bat of the year."

But Tim Worrell, working for the fifth time in the Series and the 12th time in 16 playoff games, could not stop the Angels in the bottom of the eighth.

Erstad led off the inning with a home run. Giants 5, Angels 4.

Salmon singled and Chone Figgins ran for him. Anderson dropped a single near the left-field line, Bonds bobbled it for an error, and the Angels had the tying and winning runs on second and third. The Giants turned to closer Robb Nen.

Glaus turned on a 2-1 slider, ripping a double to left-center over Bonds' head. Angels 6, Giants 5.

Closer Troy Percival retired the side in order in the ninth, leaving Jeff Kent stranded on deck, and punctuated the victory with a fist pump.

"I'm in awe," coach Mickey Hatcher said. "I just love these guys."

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