10th anniversary: Anaheim’s great Game Six comeback

Ten years ago today is probably the greatest moment in Angels history. Well, Angels fans might consider tomorrow the anniversary of their greatest moment, but clearly the better game took place on Oct. 26.

On Oct. 26, 2002, the Angels faced the Giants in Game Six of the World Series and they needed a win badly. The Giants led three games to two and the Angels would either win or have their season end on this night.

Early on all signs pointed to a sad season finale for the Angels. Anaheim didn’t get a single hit until the fourth inning and failed to get a runner to second base until the bottom of the sixth.

By that time, the Giants had a lead. Though Angels starting pitcher Kevin Appier got off to a nice start with a series of scoreless innings, in the fifth the Giants tagged him. Shawon Dunston belted a two-run homer off Appier. When Appier continued to struggle, manager Mike Scioscia immediately yanked him. With the season on the brink this was no time to give his pitcher much leeway.

Unfortunately, Anaheim’s normally first-class bullpen had a bad night. Young stud Francisco Rodriguez allowed an inherited runner to score on a wild pitch for a 3-0 lead. In the next inning Barry Bonds smacked a homer off Rodriguez for a 4-0 advantage. In the top of the seventh, Rodriguez—still in the game—surrendered an RBI single to former MVP Jeff Kent.

When the seventh inning stretch came, the Angels trailed 5-0. No team playing a must-win game had ever come back from such a large deficit—and the Angels had just nine outs left to play with. That’s what’s called looking bleak, kids.

But Anaheim refused to give up. In the bottom of the seventh, they quickly had back-to-back singles. That was enough for Giants manager Dusty Baker to yank starter Russ Ortiz. Though Ortiz hadn’t allowed any runs, he’d never been dominating and now he was tiring. In came Felix Rodriguez, a middling reliever in 2002, though a great one the year before.

The first batter he faced was infielder Scott Spiezio, who fought him hard. Spieizio fouled off three pitches in a row at one point and worked Rodriguez to a full count. On the eighth pitch of the duel, Spieizio got a pitch he liked—and he knocked it out of the park.

That’s just what the Angels needed. Now it was 5-3. Eventually the innings came to an end without any more runs scoring. The Giants still had a nice advantage, and with now just six outs left.

In the eighth, the Giants had Tim Worrell on the mound, and he had a career year in 2002, posting a 2.25 ERA over 80 outings.

But he didn’t have it. Darin Erstad led off the inning with a solo home run. Now it’s just 5-4. Then Tim Salmon singled to put the tying run on. Garret Anderson then blasted another Worrell offering into left, and thanks to a misplay by Giants outfielder Barry Bonds, runners ended up on second and third.

Now things had changed rather dramatically. The Angels had the winning run in scoring position and the tying run on third—all with no outs.

Well, this would be a good time for a new reliever, don’t you think? Yeah. It was time for the relief ace—Robb Nen came onto the field. Nen posted a 2.20 ERA while saving 43 games in 2002 and had been an effective closer for years.

But not today. He’d been placed in a dangerous situation, but he surrendered a double to the first batter he faced, third baseman Troy Glaus, and now for the first time all night the Angels had the lead.

They didn’t score again, but they didn’t need to. In the ninth, Troy Percival pitched a nice 1-2-3 inning, and that was it. The Angels had forced a Game Seven, and the Angels would win that, too.

Oh, and that turned out to be the last game for two key Giants players in that game. Shawon Dunston, he of the home run early in this game, would not appear in Game Seven and be unable to land a contract for 2003. More notably, that ended the career or Robb Nen. He didn’t appear in Game Seven and needed surgery in the offseason, surgery that ended his career.

Their careers ended in a great game, a great game that took place 10 years ago.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.

Day-versaries

2,000 days since Hideki Matsui doubled, giving him 2,000 hits between major league North American and Japanese baseball.

2,000 days since the Yankees signed free agent Roger Clemens.

2,000 days since Tim Lincecum made his major league debut.

3,000 days since the Reds traded Cory Lidle to the Phillies.

4,000 days since the Yankees signed amateur free agent Melky Cabrera.

5,000 days since the A’s signed free agent John Jaha.

6,000 days since Roger Clemens got his first big-league hit.

6,000 days since a Royals player stole home for the second straight day. David Howard did it Oct. 26 and Bob Hamelin did it the day before. Both come against the Tigers.

8,000 days since the Royals signed free agent Kirk Gibson.

10,000 days since Jim Rice hit his fifth and final career walk-off home run. It’s off Rollie Fingers, the only walk-off Rice hits off a fellow Hall of Famer.

20,000 days since Washington traded Pete Runnels to Boston for Albie Pearson and Norm Zauchin.

40,000 days since the Yankees won their first ever game, topping Washington, 7-2. It’s not the first win in franchise history, as they’d been the Baltimore Orioles in 1901-02, but this is their first win in 1903, and their first in New York City.

40,000 days since the Braves won to push their all-time franchise record to 523 games over .500 (1,833-1,310), their peak.

Anniversaries

1854 It’s the first known game to end as a tie, as the Knickbockers-Gotham game ends 12-12 after 12 innings due to darkness.

1866 Kid Gleason, a pitcher who became a position player (and later manager for the 1919 Black Sox), is born.

1899 Judy Johnson, Hall of Fame Negro League third baseman, is born. He’s probably the worst of the inductees of the first batch of Negro League inductees.

1918 Snuffy Stirnweiss, speedy player, is born.

1931 Charlie Comiskey, player turned manager turned owner, dies at age 72.

1934 The Cubs trade Pat Malone to the Cardinals.

1934 Washington trades Joe Cronin to the Red Sox for Lyn Lary and $225,000. That’s the most any player has ever been traded for, and will remain the record for decades.

1938 The Browns trade starting pitcher Oral Hildebrand and Buster Mails to the Yankees for Joe Glenn, and Myril Hoag.

1948 Toby Harrah, talented infielder, is born.

1949 Mike Hargrove, good hitter who became long-lasting manager, is born.

1949 Star pitcher Steve Rogers is born.

1950 Branch Rickey resigns from the Dodgers and sells up to 25 percent of his holdings to Walter O’Malley for $1.5 million.

1959 The Milwaukee Braves release Andy Pafko.

1960 The AL owners agree to expand to 10 teams—by next year.

1973 The Red Sox trade Reggie Smith and Ken Tatum to the Cardinals for Rick Wise and Bernie Carbo.

1973 Minnesota trades Charlie Manuel to the Dodgers.

1979 Bowie Kuhn notifies Willie Mays that if he accepts a position with gambling casinos he must disassociate himself from Major League Baseball.

1983 Francisco Liriano is born.

1985 It’s one of the most famous, or perhaps infamous, World Series games of all time. The Cardinals lose to the Royals 2-1 in Game Six of the World Series. St. Louis enters the ninth inning up 1-0 and just three outs from the world title. Then Don Denkinger makes a bad call on a routine groundout to first, and St. Louis comes entirely unglued. Jack Clark muffs a routine foul out, the pitchers allow two singles and an intentional walk, and catcher Darrell Porter allows a passed ball in the KC rally.

1991 In Game Six of the World Series, Kirby Puckett belts a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th for a 4-3 Twins victory over the Braves. While Kirby Puckett rounds the bases, announcer Jack Buck declares “We will see you tomorrow night!” as this game ensures there will be a Game Seven.

1992 Greg Maddux is granted free agency from the Cubs.

1997 The Marlins top the Indians 3-2 in 11 innings in Game Seven of the World Series to claim their first World Series title. Cleveland led 2-1 entering the bottom of the ninth but closer Jose Mesa blew the save. Craig Counsell drives in the tying run on a sacrifice fly, and then scores the winning run in the 11th on an Edgar Renteria single.

1999 In Game Three of the World Series, the Yankees top the Braves 6-5 in 10 innings after trailing 5-1 earlier on.

2004 Bobby Avila, led the AL in batting in 1954, dies at age 80.

2005 The White Sox end an 87-year world championship drought for Chicago baseball when they defeat the Astros 1-0 to end the most exciting World Series sweep in history. This game ends on back-to-back defensive gems by Chicago.

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