- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 6, 2002

ANAHEIM, Calif. As soon as David Eckstein settled under the popup, the red-clad crowd of 45,067 at Edison Field began celebrating.
And when the Anaheim shortstop caught it for the final out, a most stunning AL division series was over.
While the New York Yankees sat and stared blankly from the first-base dugout, the Angels and their fans cheered as never before, having beaten the big, bad New York Yankees 9-5 to win the best-of-five series 3-1 last night.
"It's been a long time coming for myself and this organization, a lot of blood, sweat and tears," Tim Salmon said after the Angels won a postseason series for the first time. "To finally come through and do it, it's just special."
Shawn Wooten homered and hit an RBI single during an eight-run fifth inning as the wild-card Angels put an emphatic end to 42 years of frustration.
"I didn't have my head in the sand, a lot of people didn't give us much of a chance," manager Mike Scioscia said.
"The perspective is, it's one rung up the ladder," he said. "It has to give us confidence to beat the incredible club we just played against."
The no-name Angels hit .376 the highest ever in a postseason series against a vaunted pitching staff Yankees manager Joe Torre had called his best in his seven-year tenure.
And New York's 8.21 ERA was its worst in 57 postseason series.
"It really got ugly for us," Torre said. "I have no reasoning for it or excuse for it. It's a bad taste right now. They played a whole lot better than we did. They did what they needed to do and we weren't there."
By losing the four-time defending AL champions were the first team eliminated from the playoffs this October.
The Angels, meanwhile, play at either Oakland or Minnesota in Game1 of the AL championship series on Tuesday night.
Born as an expansion franchise in 1961 as the "other" team in the Los Angeles area, the Angels made the playoffs only three times before this year.
They blew a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five ALCS against Milwaukee in 1982 and were one strike away from the World Series in 1986 before losing the last three games to Boston.
That's six chances to win a series, and six losses.
It was a different story last night.
"Nobody gave us a chance against the Yankees. Maybe we caught them on a bad week, I don't know. You can't say enough about how our club's playing," said Salmon, the longest-tenured Angels player.
The Angels, who won a club-record 99 games during the season, took advantage of another collapse by Yankees pitching this time, David Wells got roughed up.
Torre gave the Angels credit, but wouldn't say they were a better team than the Yankees.
"I'm too proud to say that," he said. "We were beaten by a team that played a whole lot better than we did this week."
Benji Gil, like Wooten a seldom-used right-handed batter inserted by Scioscia against Wells, also had two of his team's postseason record-tying 10 hits in the fifth, which ended with the Angels on top 9-2.
The Angels have played in 20 postseason games in their history while the Yankees have won 26 World Series, including four of the last six.
But it's the Angels, who battered New York pitching for 56 hits and 31 runs in this four-game series, who are moving on.
And for the first time since 1997, the Yankees aren't.
After Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina struggled in the first three games, Wells wasn't any better. The big four finished with a whopping 10.38 ERA in this series.
Following the Yankees' Game 7 World Series loss to Arizona last year, owner George Steinbrenner stood in the locker room and vowed his team would make it back.
The Yankees signed the biggest free agent on the market, Jason Giambi, and the Boss personally lured Wells to win games just like this.
"There's no doubt it's disappointing," Giambi said. "We worked hard, got 103 wins, but they just beat us. No excuses. I thought we played great, to be honest with you. They just played better."
Long owned by singing cowboy Gene Autry until his death in 1998, the Angels are now controlled by The Walt Disney Co., which is trying to sell them.
Among the champagne-soaked visitors in the clubhouse was Autry's widow, Jackie.
"This is great to see," she said. "The fact that these guys still remember and still love Gene is very heartwarming to me."
Wells, who brought an 8-1 lifetime record in postseason play into the game, limited the Angels to three hits and one run in the first four innings.
Then came the disastrous fifth when the Angels, who hit a major league-leading .282 during the season, erupted.
Wooten, who had only three home runs during the regular season, hit a 2-0 pitch over the left-field fence for the Angels' ninth homer of the series to make it 2-all.
Gil singled one out later the first of five straight singles. With two outs, Scott Spiezio's RBI single made it 6-2 and chased Wells, who was charged with eight runs in 4 2-3 innings.
Ramiro Mendoza allowed a single by Wooten and a two-run double by Bengie Molina, and Orlando Hernandez gave up a single by Gil before retiring Eckstein the 13th batter of the inning on a fly ball.
Pitching on three days' rest, winner Jarrod Washburn was shaky from the start, allowing five of the first eight batters to reach base and using 94 pitches in the first five innings.
But he was helped by two double play balls and the Yankees managed only two runs off him. Raul Mondesi and Juan Rivera hit long flies to left that had home-run distance, but both hooked foul.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide