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Up and Adam

Kennedy erases 41 years of heartache with one swing

Posted: Monday October 14, 2002 12:00 AM
Updated: Monday October 14, 2002 2:16 AM
  Adam Kennedy Adam Kennedy went 4-for-4 with 13 total bases. AP

By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Since Little League, Angels first baseman Scott Spiezio has heard his father dispense one particular nugget of baseball wisdom over and over.

Ed Spiezio, a third baseman with the Cardinals, Padres and White Sox in the 1960s, would tell Scott to stay on his toes whenever he saw a hitter fail to get a sacrifice bunt down when called upon.

"He'll feel like he let his team down, and he'll concentrate that much more on the rest of the at-bat," Spiezio pere would say. "You'll see a lot of home runs hit after that."

"I always thought it was bogus," the younger Spiezio said Sunday. "Then I hit one out in that situation in Yankee Stadium this year."

Father knows best, and the Angels are riding that wisdom to their first World Series.

While the younger Spiezio was telling that story in Anaheim's champagne-soaked clubhouse on Sunday, Ed -- sporting the World Series ring he won with the Cardinals in 1964 -- was chatting with Adam Kennedy. He no doubt was bragging that he saw Kennedy's Game 5 heroics coming.

The 26-year-old second baseman, who had just seven home runs this season and had never gone deep against Minnesota, hit three homers and launched the Angels into the first World Series in the franchise's 42-year history. His third shot came in the seventh inning. The Angels trailed by two, there were runners on first and second and -- cue Ed Spiezio -- he had just fouled off a sacrifice bunt attempt.

Kennedy's three-run shot put the Angels ahead and kick-started a 10-run inning in which a 5-3 deficit became a 13-5 lead.

In a series that no one predicted would happen back in April, it's fitting that a No. 9 hitter should join the likes of George Brett, Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth in the club of players who have hit three home runs in a postseason game. (Pittsburgh's Bob Robertson also did it, in the 1971 NLCS.)

It was also typical of the way the Angels' offense has clicked throughout this Red October. Everyone is hitting. "I've never seen a team where all nine guys were hot at the same time," Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said.

"It seemed like every day somebody else stepped up and beat us," added catcher A.J Pierzunski. "Two nights ago, Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus beat us with home runs. Glaus seemed like he was on fire the whole series. We kept him in check today, and then Kennedy beat us."

Until Sunday, Kennedy had been one of the few Angels the Twins had kept in check. He was 1-for-10 coming in. Though he homered in his first two at-bats in Game 5, it was clear he had to bunt when he stepped to the plate in the seventh. Hitters in the No. 9 spot aren't supposed to swing away in that situation, especially not in October.

But after Kennedy fouled off the first pitch he saw from left-hander Johan Santana, Angels manager Mike Scioscia gambled and took the bunt off. "Mike doesn't always go by the book," said hitting coach Mickey Hatcher. "He keeps these guys aggressive because they don't know what Mike will do."

"They were pitching for a bunt," Scioscia explained. "We thought it was good to turn Adam loose and see if he could get a pitch to hit."

He did.

Three pitches later, Santana hung a slider in the middle of the plate and Kennedy sent it flying into the sea of red in the bleachers in right center.

In a heartbeat, 42 years of heartache evaporated for a supposedly snakebit franchise. Memories of postseason disasters in 1982 and '86, years in which the Angels were one strike away from the Fall Classic and failed to make it, were swept away.

"For Kennedy to hit three homers," Scott Spiezio said, "I can't explain it."

Sort of like explaining the Angels in the World Series.


 
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