Angels climb out of 5-0 hole, throw wrench into Giant script

October 27, 2002|By LAURA VECSEY

ANAHEIM, Calif. - ThunderStix this, Barry Bonds!

Rally Monkey that, San Francisco Giants!

On a night custom-made for the coronation of the greatest slugger alive, on a night that the Giants had their first World Series since 1954 in the proverbial black and orange bag, this happened: The never-say-die, we-are-for-real Anaheim Angels absolutely destroyed the script.

Bonds, his surreal numbers and his once-in-a-lifetime performance in this Fall Classic were kicked in the shins by all the pesky little Angels hitters. Guys like Darin Erstad, Tim Salmon, Brad Fullmer, Scott Spiezio and Troy Glaus all refused to go gently into that good Southern California night - or that terrible, ring-less offseason. That is exactly what the Halos faced after the Giants took what seemed like a demoralizing 5-0 lead in the top of the seventh.

Instead, the Angels' smash-mouth hitters turned the game - and the Giants - inside out. The Angels scored six unanswered runs in the seventh and eighth innings to beat the Giants, 6-5, and steal Game 6 of this 98th World Series.

The Angels' rally from five runs down was the biggest comeback ever for a team in the World Series facing elimination.

It was a game that will register with some - at least Southern Californians and anti-Barry Bonds people - as one worthy of every kind of hyperbole imaginable.

"When you have two teams that want to strive for something, we both are going after it hard. When you have that, special things can happen," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

"I go back to the Kirk Gibson game in 1988 [in which his homer for the Dodgers beat the Athletics.] There was about as much electricity in the stadium that night. This surpassed that," Scioscia said.

Now this World Series that no one is watching (on the east side of the Mississippi, according to the Nielsen ratings) is knotted at 3-3. And now this Series will live to tell the tale of a decisive Game 7.

"[Today] it's going to be real," said Spiezio, whose three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth kicked off the hit parade.

In the seventh, Erstad blasted a bases-empty shot, closing the gap to 5-4. Then Glaus, who has done his part to keep up with Bonds all Series, belted a two-run double, sealing the victory.

How about that, Fox? A week of hand-wringing about poor ratings and disinterest and all along the best hope for salvaging some of the big buck investment was for there to be a Game 7.

Imagine this: It is the dreaded rival Disneylanders who will now bolster your bottom line.

This subplot is just about as amazing as what actually went down inside Edison International Field last night, when the Angels staged an absolutely stunning, stinging victory.

Don't call it a comeback. They Angels didn't come from behind. They came back from the dead - at least judging from the agonized face of Angels starter Kevin Appier.

The veteran junkballer's 4 1/3 innings of four-hit pitching seemed like a blessing to the Angels, who were worried that Appier would be flushed from the mound early again, like he had been in Game 2. When he cruised through four scoreless innings, the Angels must have felt touched by an angel.

But then it unraveled in a heartbeat when Giants journeyman Shawon Dunston - the world's most unlikely designated hitter out of the nine hole - tagged a 2-run homer off Appier with one out in the fifth.

Appier kicked the dugout bench and flung boxes of gum when he was lifted after giving up a double to leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton. Lofton then scored after a stolen base and a wild pitch by reliever Francisco Rodriguez and so suddenly, with a 3-0 deficit pegged on him, Appier's stormy face seemed to forecast the potential doomsday fate of the Angels.

It seemed like the small things, the mistakes and momentum were going to sink the gritty little Angels - not to mention the big things. That was at the hands of The Big Man, Bonds, who smashed a demoralizing, bases-empty homer to lead off the sixth, giving the Giants a 4-0 lead.

That seemed like the kind of MVP exclamation point of this World Series - the blow that seemed to tell the crucial difference between these two wild-card teams. The Angels and Giants are similar - except that the Giants have Bonds and that is rather large.

That's why Bonds' psychological twist of a homer seemed like the final taunt, especially since Bonds' numbers for this Series had already seemed to guarantee him the MVP trophy. Bonds is batting .500 (7-for-14) in the Series. That would match the record for highest average in a Series of more than four games. He has reached base in 19 of 26 plate appearances, with seven hits and 12 walks, a .731 on-base percentage. That's the highest ever in a Series.

But as if on cue, the Rally Monkey appeared in the seventh and incited the 44,506 screaming ocean of red-clad Angels fans who told the story of a surreal sea change.

In the bottom of the sixth, when some clubs might have looked at the demolition work of Bonds and sensed a touch of destiny for the prodigious slugger, the Angels instead fought back. This is their home park - one with so little history and meaningful ambience after 41 years of no World Series' appearances.

But Edison Field is also a place where the Angels have lost only one postseason game.

Through two rounds of this postseason, the Angels have apparently amassed enough instant postseason experience to take on all comers.

That includes a masterful brute - Bonds - and the array of hungry veterans surrounding the Giants' slugger. Last night, the Giants were poised to secure San Francisco's first World Series title since the franchise moved from New York to California in 1958. Instead, the upstart Angels said maybe this California title is heading south.

Stay awake. Stayed tuned.

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