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Anderson Finally Lives Up to Billing

Called "Mr. Clutch'' by Angel teammates, he was anything but that until his decisive three-run double.

October 28, 2002|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

It was hard to tell who put himself in a position to be trampled worse Thursday night in Pacific Bell Park -- Darren Baker, the 3-year-old San Francisco Giant batboy nearly flattened near home plate in Game 5 of the World Series, or Garret Anderson, the 30-year-old Angel left fielder being trashed from coast to coast.

Anderson, many media members thought, dogged it on Kenny Lofton's foul ball down the line in the second inning, coasting in from left while hustling shortstop David Eckstein lunged for the ball after a long sprint, missed it and smashed into the short wall beyond the third-base dugout.

Two pitches later, Lofton singled to start a three-run rally that could have been prevented had Anderson made the catch, and the Giants went on to rout the Angels, 16-4.

The other knock on Anderson: Through five Series games, the player touted as an American League most-valuable-player candidate, the Angels' cleanup batter, had pretty much made a mess of things at the plate, coming to bat with 22 runners on base and driving in only three of them, with no extra-base hits.

But when the Angels needed him most, when the stakes were highest in the winner-take-all showdown against the Giants in Game 7 of the World Series on Sunday night, Anderson came through with a hit he and his teammates will remember for a lifetime.

With the score tied, the bases loaded and no out in the third inning, Anderson laced a three-run double into the right-field corner against Giant starter Livan Hernandez, and that was the difference in the Angels' 4-1 Series-clinching victory before 44,598 in Edison Field.

"He's never been a guy to let criticism bother him, and that's what I love about him," Angel batting instructor Mickey Hatcher said. "I knew if the game came down to a situation where we needed a big run driven in, he would be the guy.

"We know he was struggling, but we also knew he would be the guy we wanted up there when we needed the big hit. This guy is great under pressure. He's been coming through for us all year."

Anderson, who hit .306 with 29 home runs and 123 runs batted in during the regular season but only .281 with no homers and six RBIs in the World Series, basked in the afterglow of the victory and the Angels' first world championship in the 42-year history of the franchise.

After the postgame awards ceremony, he took the Series trophy from teammate Tim Salmon and jogged around the field for a victory lap.

Every time Anderson thrust the trophy into the air, the crowd responded with a cheer so loud it seemed those F-14s were doing another fly-over.

"I still can't believe the ringing in my ears," Anderson said. "It meant a lot to get that hit. Everyone is chipping in, and tonight it was my turn to chip in.... There's no words to describe this feeling."

If there were, Anderson wasn't about to reveal them. While his teammates headed to the clubhouse for a raucous celebration, spraying each other with champagne and beer, doing Tequila shots and lighting victory cigars, Anderson retreated to a private room off the clubhouse, celebrating with his family.

"I just hope he can understand the impact he's had on this team," Angel closer Troy Percival said. "Garret has been our MVP all year. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be here. Troy [Glaus] and Tim [Salmon] and Scott [Spiezio] stepped up in the playoffs, but without Garret Anderson, we're not here."

The Giants seemed to be pitching around Anderson for much of the Series, but Anderson wouldn't let them. He's never been one to draw many walks -- he didn't have one in the World Series -- and for six games, he swung at too many bad pitches.

But Anderson never panicked.

"That's how he lives," Angel bench coach Joe Maddon said. "If you showed up at his house, he'd be calm, patient, never in a hurry. That's how he hits, that's how he plays, and because of that, he's not going to be uptight or nervous. It's an absolute strong point for him."

So is a knee-high fastball over the plate. After David Eckstein and Darin Erstad singled to open the third, Tim Salmon was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Anderson took Hernandez's first pitch for a strike and the second for a ball.

The next pitch, Anderson pounced on, lining it past first baseman J.T. Snow and into the corner, turning a 1-1 game into a 4-1 cushion that starter John Lackey and relievers Brendan Donnelly, Francisco Rodriguez and Percival made stand up.

"We knew G.A. was gonna come through big time," Spiezio said, "because he's Mr. Clutch."

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