Angels roar back, 6-5, force Game 7

Down by 5 runs, Anaheim rallies with 3 in 7th, 8th to push Series to the limit

Old Angels `jinx' is reversed

Spiezio, Erstad homer

comeback is biggest for team facing elimination

World Series

October 27, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Anaheim Angels have spent this October dismissing the demons of postseasons past, but Game 6 of the 98th World Series may finally have slammed the door on the "Angels jinx" once and for all.

The champagne was chilling in the San Francisco Giants' clubhouse last night when the Angels battled back from a five-run deficit to score a heart-stopping 6-5 victory and extend this now-classic Fall Classic to a climactic seventh game tonight at Edison International Field.

They were done.

Everybody could see that.

Utility player Shawon Dunston knocked them down with an unlikely home run in the fifth inning. Barry Bonds pushed them lower with another mammoth home run in the sixth. The Giants extended their lead to five in the seventh and seemed ready to reward an outstanding performance by starting pitcher Russ Ortiz.

Then came the Rally Monkey, in the person of Angels RBI machine Scott Spiezio.

The Angels first baseman launched a three-run homer off reliever Felix Rodriguez to keep hope alive in the seventh and tie the record for RBIs in a single postseason with 19. His teammates struck for three more runs in the eighth - the last two on a tide-shifting double by Troy Glaus off closer Robb Nen.

"It was a great ballgame," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "I think when you have two teams that have such a passion to strive for something, as any two teams in the World Series would, we're both going after it hard. I think when you have those two teams like that, there's always special things that can happen. Tonight was one of them."

It was the first time any team had rebounded from five runs down in an elimination game.

This is the same franchise that won the first two games of the 1982 American League Championship Series, only to become the first team to blow a two-game lead in a best-of-five playoff series.

They took postseason futility to a new level in 1986, when they squandered a 3-1 lead in the new best-of-seven ALCS format.

Throw in the discouraging late-season collapse of 1995 and you get a general idea of what the past 42 years have been like for Angels fans, who probably would have consoled themselves last night with the fact that the team had already gone farther than any before it.

But these aren't your father's Angels. The Disney version always seems to come up with the surprise ending.

Spiezio simply willed his home run into the bleachers in the right-field corner.

"I didn't know it was gone when I hit it," he said. "I was praying, `God, please, get it over the fence.' It ... took forever."

Darin Erstad led off the eighth with a line drive into the right-field bleachers to cut the deficit to one. Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson followed with back-to-back hits and Bonds overran Anderson's bloop single for an error that allowed him to move into scoring position.

Enter Nen, who gave up the gap double to Glaus that gave the Angels their first lead since the fifth inning of Game 4.

Angels closer Troy Percival did the rest, retiring the Giants in order in the ninth to send the sellout crowd of 44,506 into absolute hysterics.

"One thing about this club, we always come back after tough losses," Giants manager Dusty Baker said. "We've been doing it over and over and over. We knew it was going to be tough today. Here we are going to Game 7."

Both teams were playing against form in the early innings. The first five games featured rocky performances out of each starting rotation and plenty of offensive fireworks - the Giants taking that formula to the extreme in Game 5 with a resounding 16-4 victory that put all the pressure on the Angels.

What could they possibly expect out of veteran Kevin Appier after he lasted just two innings in Game 2? The Giants had to wonder themselves. Ortiz had lasted just 1 2/3 innings in that same game, but at least he had some stronger outings to his credit earlier in the postseason.

There was every reason to believe Game 6 would be another crazy slugfest - maybe even something along the lines of last year's Game 6, when the Arizona Diamondbacks came home in the same situation as the Angels and rang up 15 runs.

Except Appier and Ortiz refused to cooperate. Appier gave up just one hit through the first four innings and was victimized by Dunston only after David Bell reached first on a dribbler that didn't get out of the infield. He would last only 4 1/3 innings, but that was more a function of the situation than his performance.

He had allowed just two runs on four hits at that point, but Scioscia pulled him after Kenny Lofton followed Dunston's homer with a well-struck double. Appier seemed peeved at the quick hook, but relief phenom Francisco Rodriguez already was on the way in.

Lofton would steal another run by swiping third base and scoring on a wild pitch by K-Rod, who would prove human again by allowing two runs over 2 2/3 innings. Brandon Donnelly came on to pitch a scoreless eighth and was rewarded with his first World Series win.

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