By Geoff Bilau, Angelswin.com Senior Editor
Chances are had you asked a diehard Angels fan if he or she would have been satisfied with a nondescript 5-2 victory prior to Game 5 of the 2002 ALCS, the answer would have been “Absolutely!” After waiting 41 years to see an American League pennant flying over Anaheim Stadium, few fans were going to be picky about how it got there.
The Angels, however — especially second baseman Adam Kennedy — had a special treat in store for their long-suffering faithful. Kennedy, who hit just seven homers during the 2002 regular season, launched three round trippers over the right field wall, the third igniting a 10-run seventh inning that carried the Halos into their first World Series with a 13-5 victory over the Twins.
Kennedy’s first home run, leading off the third inning off Joe Mays, shaved the Twins 2-0 lead in half. When he connected again in the fifth, following Scott Spiezio’s leadoff shot, Kennedy briefly gave the Angels a 3-2 lead.
The twins retook the lead with three in the top of the seventh, and with Johan Santana on the mound appeared to have perhaps blown an opportunity to end the series at home.
But Spiezio and Bengie Molina led off the bottom half with singles and rather than sending up right handed Benji Gil to pinch hit for Kennedy, manager Mike Scioscia allowed the lefty swinger to bat. On Santana’s first pitch, Kennedy squared around to bunt — a textbook Scioscia move — but fouled off his attempt.
With 44,835 fans expecting another bunt attempt, Kennedy got the green light to swing away and fouled it off. After taking a ball, Kennedy lofted Santana’s 1-2 offering, a hanging curveball, deep over the tall wall in right center field for his third home run of the game, a three-run shot to give the Angels a 6-5 lead.
Kennedy became only the fifth player in Major League history to homer three times in a playoff game, joining Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and George Brett, and former Pirate Bob Robertson in the very exclusive club.
“I don’t care if I have another one,” Kennedy said. “This is it right here, the biggest game of my life. Everybody dreams of this. I was in the right spot today.”
For good measure, Kennedy’s teammates proceeded to thoroughly pile on the Twins beleaguered bullpen, scoring seven more runs off three relievers who followed Santana, Kennedy adding a single later in the inning.
Kennedy finished the game 4-for-4 with three runs and five RBI, earning him series MVP honors — some fine hardware for his trophy case, but nothing compared to being remembered as the man whose bat sent the Angels to their first World Series. That is simply unforgettable.