Angels 6, Giants 5
Reprinted from last night's late editions
You mock the Rally Monkey, doubt his powers, curse his hackneyed act. But the Anaheim Angels were down by five runs Saturday night to the San Francisco Giants in Game 6 of the World Series, six outs from elimination, and somewhere in the stratosphere Barry Bonds's sixth-inning homer was mocking them as it made its second orbit around the earth.
And then the Angels' simian demagogue appeared from his video-screen pulpit, and magical things began to happen. The Angels' 6-5 resulting victory, in front of an enraptured crowd of 44,506 believers at Edison Field, defies all human explanation.
The human version of events went something like this: The Angels fell behind by five, then pulled off a stunning comeback -- the biggest ever for a team facing elimination -- that sends the World Series to a deciding Game 7 for the second year in a row. The Angels will start rookie John Lackey on three days' rest against Giants veteran Livan Hernandez.
Humans swung the bats Saturday night, from Scott Spiezio's three-run homer off Felix Rodriguez in the seventh that cut the lead to two, to Darin Erstad's solo homer leading off the eighth against right-hander Tim Worrell that made it a one-run game, to Troy Glaus's game-winning two-run double three batters later against closer Robb Nen.
The simian version is this: The monkey is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-real.
This was a classic Game 6. It featured a dazzling pitching performance by Giants right-hander Russ Ortiz, a two-run homer by Giants designated hitter Shawon Dunston to break a scoreless tie, a mammoth homer by Bonds off Angels phenom Francisco Rodriguez and an uncharacteristic meltdown by the Giants' impenetrable bullpen.
"We threw four of our best pitchers out there," said Giants second baseman Jeff Kent, "and they scored six runs off them and won the ballgame."
The Angels' comeback began in the seventh, when back-to-back one-out singles by Glaus and Brad Fullmer ended Ortiz's night. Giants Manager Dusty Baker called on Felix Rodriguez, who was pitching for the sixth time in six games.
The first batter he faced, Spiezio, stayed alive by fouling off a pair of nasty two-strike pitches, then crushing the eighth pitch of the at-bat just over the wall in right. It was 5-3.
"That," Kent said, "was the at-bat of the game."
Still, holding a two-run lead, Baker called on Worrell, who had been nearly unhittable in his four previous appearances in the Series, to start the eighth. Erstad greeted him by homering deep into the seats in right.
Suddenly, it was a one-run lead.
After Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson followed with singles -- the latter a blooper to left that Bonds misplayed for an error, which gave Anderson second base -- Baker called on Nen to face Glaus. Though it was an inning earlier than Nen normally appears, such stringent rules do not apply in elimination games.
Glaus promptly smashed a 2-1 pitch into the gap in left-center, scoring two runs and giving the Angels their first lead of the game. On the video screen, the Rally Monkey was going ape, and so were the fans.
"These games are mentally and physically draining," Spiezio said. "To have the fans get behind you and give you that boost of adrenaline you need late in a game. . . . We never gave up. It would have been hard to do that without them. If it takes the Rally Monkey to get them going, we love it."
The Giants professed nonchalance after the game, saying they would treat this as nothing more than another loss. "We don't have to put ourselves back together. We're not falling apart," Kent said. "We just lost a ballgame."
But the truth is, it is not just any loss when you are six outs from winning the World Series.
Bonds, for example, was two innings from adding a World Series title to a resume that lacks nothing else. If he falls short, no one can say it was his fault.
With two more walks and a homer tonight, Bonds has a slugging percentage of 1.500 in the series -- which ranks behind only the 1.727 Lou Gehrig put up in 1928 -- and an on-base average of .731, which would be an all-time World Series record.
Bonds's first walk of the game, an intentional pass with Kent on first and two outs in the first, tied Babe Ruth's 1926 record for a single World Series (later matched by Oakland's Gene Tenace in 1972). His second one, leading off the fourth, broke it.
But the next time Bonds came to the plate, leading off the sixth against Francisco Rodriguez, the Angels decided to challenge him. It was a bad move. After a first-pitch strike, Rodriguez had the temerity to try to throw a belt-high fastball past Bonds, who bashed it to give the Giants a four-run lead. Kent's RBI single in the seventh made it 5-0.
"I thought if we could get hits strung together," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said, "we were going to get back in the game."
Silly humans. The truth is, somewhere in the bowels of the stadium, or behind the video screen, or in the mystical ether he inhabits, the Rally Monkey, his little monkey hands firmly on the controls, was simply waiting to be beckoned.