Kennedy swings big bat
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Adam Kennedy suddenly became a power hitter Sunday.
Now, he’s taking his big bat to the World Series.
Usually a light-hitting second baseman, Kennedy became the fifth player to hit three homers in a postseason game, as the Anaheim Angels beat the Minnesota Twins, 13-5, to win the AL Championship Series 4-1.
“I don’t care if I have another one,” Kennedy said. “This is it right here, the biggest game of my life.”
Kennedy, named MVP of the ALCS despite going 1 for 10 without an RBI in the first four games, said he couldn’t remember ever hitting three homers in a game.
“Everybody dreams of this,” he said. “I was in the right spot (yesterday).”
The Angels will play in the World Series for the first time in their 42-season history against San Francisco or St. Louis starting Saturday at Edison Field — where the red-clad crowd of 44,835 went crazy after Kennedy’s third homer, a three-run shot in the seventh.
Scott Spiezio and Bengie Molina singled in the seventh before Kennedy came to the plate. He fouled off a sacrifice bunt attempt before manager Mike Scioscia let him swing away.
Kennedy hit an 0-2 pitch from Johan Santana over the 18-foot wall in right-center to put Anaheim on top 6-5.
The homer triggered a 10-run inning that put the game out of reach.
“That’s just amazing,” starting pitcher Kevin Appier said. “We’re sitting there begging him to get the bunt down. Two pitches later, he’s going deep.”
The 26-year-old Kennedy, who has played in 470 regular-season games and hit only 23 homers in 1,652 at-bats, yelled in celebration while rounding first base as the ball cleared the wall.
He hit solo homers in the third and fifth innings off Joe Mays.
Another solo homer by Spiezio in the fifth put the Angels on top 3-2 before the Twins scored three runs in the seventh for a 5-3 lead.
Kennedy made sure it didn’t last long.
“To me, that kind of sums up our whole season, that’s why we’re where we’re at,” designated hitter Brad Fullmer said. “Every day a different person stepped up and did it.”
The left handed-hitting Kennedy, who bats ninth, hasn’t played against left-handed pitchers much recently, but he stayed in to sacrifice against Santana.
After fouling off a bunt attempt, Kennedy took a full swing and hit another foul before uppercutting a hanging curveball out of the park.
“This guy’s been swinging the bat so well,” Scioscia said. “We saw the Twins were pitching him for a bunt, we saw that and the way he was swinging, we thought we’d give him a chance to rip. He didn’t miss it.”
Kennedy added a single later in the seventh to finish 4 for 4.
Others who have homered three times in a postseason game are New York Yankees sluggers Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, the Pirates’ Bob Robertson and Kansas City’s George Brett.
Ruth did it in the World Series twice — in 1926 and 1928. Robertson did it in the 1971 NLCS, Jackson in the 1977 World Series and Brett in the 1978 ALCS.
Kennedy, who grew up in nearby Riverside and played at Cal State Northridge before being chosen in the first round of the 1997 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, hit seven homers in 474 at-bats this season while batting .312, the seventh-highest average in the AL.
He also homered in the division series against the Yankees, and has four in 32 postseason at-bats while playing in eight of Anaheim’s nine playoff games.
“We were trying to bounce ’em, and we hung ’em,” Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski said of the pitches to Kennedy. “That’s what the postseason is all about. He did something great today.”
Kennedy tied a franchise record by driving in eight runs in a game at Toronto on April 18, 2000 — less than a month after the Angels acquired him from the Cardinals along with pitcher Kent Bottenfield in a trade for outfielder Jim Edmonds.
The deal was one of Bill Stoneman’s first major moves as Angels general manager and was extremely unpopular for some time with local fans because Edmonds became an even bigger star for the Cardinals than he was with Anaheim.
Stoneman made the deal because the Angels were crowded in the outfield and needed a solid second baseman, which Kennedy has certainly become, as well as a starting pitcher.
Bottenfield didn’t pan out, but Kennedy sure has.
“The reports on him were he was a good offensive player, with work he could become a good defensive player,” Stoneman said.
“This year, he was both.”