On Sunday in the American League championship series, the Anaheim Angels trailed the Minnesota Twins 5-3 in the seventh inning and the Twins were two innings away from cutting into the Angels’ 3-1 series lead. Then Adam Kennedy stepped to the plate.
Kennedy hit his third home run of the contest, a three-run job that began a 10-run outburst, giving the Angels a 13-5 win and a World Series berth. This from someone who had only seven round-trippers during the entire season.
Had Kennedy done what he was supposed to do several pitches earlier, he never would have hit the home run. With runners on first and second and nobody retired in the frame, Kennedy — despite hitting two dingers in his previous at-bats — was supposed to bunt. While some have debated this decision, Angels manager Mike Scioscia made the right call. Despite Kennedy’s power surge Sunday, Anaheim’s skipper couldn’t bet that Kennedy would knock a third ball out of the park.
Down two runs, a well-placed bunt would have moved both base runners into scoring position with only one out, and eliminated a double play possibility. Kennedy failed to get the bunt down, fouling off Johan Santana’s dealing, making the count 0-1.
As FOX television analyst Steve Lyons said at the time, rarely do you bunt for the first strike and not for the second; but Scioscia realized that the Twins were anticipating another bunt, and so he gave Kennedy the green light. Later in the at-bat, with an 0-2 count, Kennedy drilled his third bases-clearing shot of the game, much to the delight of 44,835 thunderstick-clanging fans.
You know things are going your way when a botched bunt turns into a game-winning home run. Since that jolt, in an effort to explain the incredible event, some have claimed it was the rally monkey, others chalk it up to another magical Disney moment while others still say the “baseball gods” are rooting for their Angels.
Romantic notions all, but nonsense nevertheless.
Just one word is needed to explain Kennedy’s performance on Sunday: clutch. All the credit belongs to the Angels on the field, not the Mouse in the castle or the man upstairs. And if the Angels finish on top of the Fall Classic, they can thank the greatest thunderstick of all: Kennedy’s Louisville Slugger.