There has only been one post-season game in Angels history that fell on October 13... and it was one of the greatest.
2002 - Angels beat the Twins 13-5 to clinch the American League Championship Series, win the AL pennant and first World Series berth in franchise history.
In a game of failure, we celebrate the hero who cannot make it to the base safely six out of ten times. If our team loses seventy games, we call it a great season. And when we make the World Series one time in over forty tries, the sight of Tim Salmon circling the warning track with the American League Championship trophy in his hands brings tears of joy that rid us of most of the pain of the past.
This was that game.
Kevin Appier gave up single runs in the first and second inning. Leading of the bottom of the third, light-hitting Adam Kennedy homered to make the score 2-1. Later Scott Spiezio homered to lead of the fifth. Two batters later, Kennedy broke the tie game with another solo homerun.
Twins starter Joe Mays faltered in the sixth, giving up back to back singles to Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson. Tom Kelly left his starter in and was rewarded by a forceout of Salmon at the plate on a Troy Glaus grounder. In came Johan Santana who induced a double play grounder out of Shawn Wooten, pinch hitting for Brad Fullmer.
In the seventh, Brendan Donnelly got one out and then loaded the bases on three consecutive singles. The rookie Phenom Frankie Rodriguez entered the game but could not work his magic at all. He walked in a run, Wild-pitched in a run and gave up a sac fly for a third run, all three of which were on Donnelly's ledger. Christian Guzman grounded out to end a disastrous inning.
It was time to think about Ramon Ortiz starting Game six in Minnesota on Tuesday.
But during the seventh inning stretch, two verses of Take Me Out to the Ballgame were played. Buttercup was nowhere to be heard. We were subsequently not let down.
Twins reliever Johann Santana was in line for the win when he returned to the mound to start the bottom of the seventh. Base hits by Scott Spiezio and Bengie Molina suddenly put the go ahead run up into the batter's box in the person of Adam Kennedy. Having homered twice, Kennedy fouled a bunt attempt for strike one, and on an 0-2 pitch hit his third homerun of the afternoon.
A pandemonium broke out that this new lead might have some seal of the baseball gods approval to be held. The fans that had suffered Luis Sanchez in 1982, Donnie Moore in 1986, Mark Langston in 1995 and a dozen other letdowns of great magnitude were suddenly unsure of how it all worked. Would this lead be a momentary blip before the inevitable Halo collapse, like a hundred times before? Playoff baseball history had just been made by an unlikely suspect and we all wanted to believe, but would the coming two innings deliver a soul-crushing dismounting from this high?
No. For once, we were given certainty, immediately, and allowed to celebrate the coming victory. Seven more runs would cross the plate. It was a ten-hit, ten-run inning. After that 10-run seventh inning, the stadium deejay played the Smiths' How Soon is Now?
Soon we would be playing in the World Series.