- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO As much as he yearns to escape the shadow of Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent may have no choice but to re-sign with the San Francisco Giants this winter.

Honestly, how can the cantankerous second baseman possibly bolt town now after carrying the Giants to the brink of their first World Series title in 48 years?

In a game that was beginning to look ominous from San Francisco's perspective, Kent's pair of late home runs served as the definitive knockout punches to a 16-4 triumph over the Anaheim Angels. On a grander scale, it gave the Giants a 3-2 lead in the Series, moving them within one victory of the championship that has eluded them since the day they arrived on the West Coast in 1958.

As the Series leaves picturesque Pac Bell Park and heads back south to Edison Field, the Giants find themselves needing to win just one of two this weekend from the Angels to wrap things up.

And the 42,713 who packed into every crevice of Pac Bell last night have Kent to thank for it.

He came to the plate in the sixth inning with the Giants clinging to a 6-4 lead against an Angels team starting to put together another dramatic comeback. But when he deposited Ben Weber's 0-1 pitch into the front row of the left-field bleachers to make it 8-4, Kent all but assured San Francisco's victory.

And when he duplicated the feat one inning later, this time on a 3-2 pitch from Scot Shields to cap a four-run inning, Kent all but assured legendary status in the Bay Area for decades to come. Whether or not he stays here that long.

Kent's long-standing feud with Bonds has been well-chronicled, and it's led many to believe the All-Star second baseman will declare for free agency this winter and move as far away from the superstar left fielder as possible.

But as Giants manager Dusty Baker has intimated during this Series, as much as they hate each other, Kent and Bonds need each other. He compared the situation to the movie "The Defiant Ones" in which Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier are handcuffed to each other and forced to work together.

Likewise, Bonds makes Kent a better player, and Kent makes Bonds a better player. And if the Giants win this series, Kent may come to realize the best place for him to be is handcuffed to the teammate he loves to hate.

Kent's homers only added to what was already an explosive offensive night for San Francisco. The Giants pounded the Angels for six early runs, then took three innings off before pounding them for 10 more, the final blow coming in the form of Rich Aurilia's three-run homer in the eighth that turned this once-competitive game into an absolute rout and gave San Francisco the second-largest run output in World Series history.

This series has been screaming for a dominating pitching performance sorry, K-Rod, relievers don't count and last night's matchup figured to finally produce one. Anaheim's Jarrod Washburn and San Francisco's Jason Schmidt may not have achieved true No. 1 status yet, but each has the potential to pitch like one on any given night.

Just not on this one.

Washburn labored through one of his worst outings of the season, giving up six runs in the game's first two innings. Given such a large cushion to work with, Schmidt gave three runs back to the Angels and threw so many pitches he had to be pulled with one out in the fifth.

Left-hander Chad Zerbe entered and exacerbated the problem by giving up another run and letting the Angels pull within 6-4. But the Giants' bullpen clamped down after that, and their offensive explosion ensured there would be no Anaheim rally.

Alternating between pitches that caught too much of the plate and pitches that came nowhere near it to begin with, Washburn never bore any resemblance to the man who won 18 games during a breakthrough 2002 season. Of the first 15 batters he faced, Washburn really only made one San Francisco player look bad: Schmidt, the opposing pitcher, who took three feeble swings and then took a seat on the bench.

The rest of the Giants' hitters in the first two innings all had productive at-bats, with the only outs either moving runners up or requiring a pair of great catches by center fielder Darin Erstad.

The first inning began just as it did on Wednesday night, with Bonds coming to the plate with two on and one out. In Game 4, Scioscia had no qualms about intentionally walking Bonds and loading the bases for Benito Santiago, but this time he let his young left-hander face the big man.

Big mistake. Bonds didn't hit the ball out of the park, but he did drill a double down the right-field line to score Kenny Lofton with the game's first run. Santiago followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.

The rest of the inning was an excruciating blur of ball after ball from Washburn. He intentionally walked Reggie Sanders, then put the next two batters on the conventional way, the latter forcing another run across the plate. At one point, Washburn had thrown more than twice as many balls (21) as strikes (10) for the game.

He managed to find the plate in the second inning, but that just meant the Giants were scoring their runs on base hits instead of walks. A double by Kent, a two-run single by Santiago and a sacrifice fly by Sanders made it 6-0 and set the tone for the rest of the night.

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