- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2002

ANAHEIM, Calif. If the Giants win their first World Series title in 48 years tonight in Game 6 or tomorrow night in Game 7, all eyes will surely be on Barry Bonds. He is, after all, the latest "greatest player never to win it all," and the sight of Bonds hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy for the first time in his storied career would be too juicy to ignore.

It would be a fitting scene for Jeff Kent, too one last moment out of the spotlight for the man who has spent the last six years in Bonds' immense shadow.

Kent, the Giants' All-Star second baseman, will become a free agent at the end of the season. And given his long-standing, well-publicized dislike of Bonds, it seems obvious that he'll bolt town regardless of the outcome of the World Series and cash a huge free agent check.

And if Game 5 of the Series on Thursday night was indeed Kent's last at Pac Bell Park in the home team's uniform, what a way to go out with a pair of home runs in the Giants' 16-4 thrashing of the Anaheim Angels.

It might be hard to understand why, even after such dramatic moments that led San Francisco to the brink of its first championship since moving west in 1958, Kent would want to leave. But he has complex relationships with both teammates and the Giants organization, and for that reason Kent spoke late Thursday night as though he did not expect to return.

"I'd like to think, if this is my last game, that I gave a good effort and did things right, just came out and played the game and made things happen," said Kent, his eyes slowly welling up. "That's how I'd want fans here to remember me, that I was just a guy who came out every day and did things right and played the game."

Who knows if Giants fans will remember him for his World Series heroics, his six seasons of 100-plus RBI and his 2000 National League MVP Award or for his dugout fight with Bonds, his questionable I-broke-my-wrist-while-washing-my-truck story last spring and his constant moodiness in the clubhouse.

Either way, Kent doesn't seem too concerned. He simply wanted to enjoy the scene at Pac Bell on Thursday night, knowing he probably won't experience anything like it again.

"I didn't want to disrespect the other team, but I wanted to look around and try to let the fans who have supported me know how much they meant," he said. "If this was my last game, yeah, there is some nostalgia and, yeah, I felt that a little bit."

There will be even more tears shed this weekend at Edison Field if Kent and the Giants wrap up the Series. And the way things have gone the last few nights, the folks in San Francisco have every reason to believe it will happen.

A series that had been squarely in the Angels' favor after three games made a 180-degree turn in Games 4 and 5. The Giants eked out a 4-3 victory Wednesday to even the series, then broke things wide open Thursday night with the kind of offensive explosion that hadn't been seen in a Series in decades. San Francisco's 16 runs were the most since the Yankees beat the Pirates 16-3 in Game 2 of the 1960 Series and were second only to the 18 runs scored by the Yankees against the New York Giants in Game 2 of the 1936 Series.

"It was a flat-out whupping," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You can't really put it into any more words."

Only three days ago, Anaheim looked ready to slug its way to its first Series title. But the Angels, who now face their first elimination game of the postseason, haven't been able to keep up with the Giants' relentless attack.

And things might get worse. Kevin Appier starts Game 6 tonight, and if the veteran right-hander bears any resemblance to the one who was shelled for five runs in two innings in Game 2, Anaheim's season is in serious danger.

"We know we're backed into a corner now," said Appier, who opposes San Francisco's Russ Ortiz. "We're facing a heck of a good team. But we still have confidence that we can possibly pull it off."

If the Angels can win tonight, they still face potential pitching problems in Game 7. Scheduled starter Ramon Ortiz is battling tendinitis in his right wrist, and Scioscia yesterday classified his status as uncertain. The Anaheim manager might be forced to go back to Game 4 starter (and Game 2 reliever) John Lackey on short rest or even left-handed reliever Scott Schoenweis, who has little experience starting.

Of course, that dilemma won't even come into play if the Bonds, Kent and the Giants win tonight, put their differences aside for a moment and celebrate together.

"I look at it as the pressure's on them," Angels right fielder Tim Salmon said. "They're trying to get one win. We're going to come out fighting. We've been in this situation all year long. We're actually more familiar being in this position where we're kind of the underdog."

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