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Lofton sparks Giants to World Series lead | TribLIVE.com
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Lofton sparks Giants to World Series lead

The Associated Press
| Saturday, October 26, 2002 12:00 a.m

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Kenny Lofton accepts slumps as a part of baseball that every player must go through and get over — hopefully in a hurry.

The San Francisco leadoff hitter seems to keep his struggles short.

After a rough start to the World Series, Lofton is once again the spark plug for the Giants, who are one win away from their first championship since 1954. Game 6 is today at Edison Field.

In Games 4 and 5 combined, Lofton was 6 for 10 and scored four runs. He hit a two-run triple and scored three times Thursday night as the Giants beat the Angels 16-4 to go ahead in the Series 3-2.

Yet, in the first three games, Lofton was pretty much miserable. He went 0 for 3, 1 for 5 and 0 for 4, scoring only once. But his latest performances at the plate have boosted his World Series batting average to .318.

“I’m just trying to do what I can do to try and help the team,” Lofton said. “I feel like I’ve got my stroke. Everybody’s doing their part, and that’s what it takes to be a winner.”

Lofton spoke before the Series how he knew teammate Reggie Sanders would get out of his offensive funk, so why would he think anything differently for himself?

Lofton has picked ideal times to come up big, too, sparking key rallies with his bat and his speed around the basepaths.

He broke out of a slump in the National League Championship Series to get the series-clinching hit after a three-game hitless drought. He had three hits as the Giants eliminated the St. Louis Cardinals in five games, sending his team into their first World Series in 13 years.

“Right now, he’s setting the table for us, big time,” Sanders said. “It makes all the difference when you have someone like Kenny getting on in front of our 3-4-5 hitters.”

Lofton’s experience doesn’t hurt either. He’s in the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons. The 35-year-old Lofton joined the Giants in a July 28 trade with the Chicago White Sox for two minor league pitchers, but he spent the past four seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He hit .267 in 47 regular-season games for San Francisco, which was looking for a leadoff man to spark the offense. He took over in center field, where the Giants had a hole, and reached base with the kind of regularity the team hadn’t seen from its leadoff hitter in some time.

“Kenny is a big part of why and how we got things going. He’s our spark,” said catcher Benito Santiago, who bats fifth behind Barry Bonds.

Lofton refused to dwell on his struggles in the batter’s box.

“Nothing was falling in,” Lofton said. “I just told myself to be patient and keep playing. Honestly, my approach didn’t change a bit after those first two games. I just kept swinging.”

Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia attributes some of Lofton’s success in the Series to poor pitching by the Angels.

“With Lofton, when we’ve gotten ahead, we haven’t been able to put him away,” Scioscia said. “At times, we’re getting behind in the count and coming back, giving him some pitches to hit.”

And Lofton has taken advantage of his chances. His opponents know he’s dangerous.

“Just like with both offenses, you get that leadoff guy out there on base enough, it’s going to be tough for the opposition just because of the guys coming up behind him,” Angels right fielder Tim Salmon said. “Especially in that lineup, if he gets on base, now you’re always going to be in that situation whether or not you want to pitch to (Barry) Bonds.

“No doubt, he sets the tone.”

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