It was a historic show of power from an unlikely source in what manager Mike Scioscia called "the most important game at that time of our history."Sixteen years ago, second baseman Adam Kennedy delivered one of the greatest individual performances in Angels history, crushing three home runs against the Twins
It was a historic show of power from an unlikely source in what manager Mike Scioscia called "the most important game at that time of our history."
Sixteen years ago, second baseman Adam Kennedy delivered one of the greatest individual performances in Angels history, crushing three home runs against the Twins in Game 5 of the 2002 American League Championship Series to help send his team to the World Series for the first time.
The feat was made all the more remarkable considering Kennedy -- the Angels' No. 9 hitter -- had only 23 home runs in 1,652 career regular-season at-bats entering the game.
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"It is definitely a little ironic," Kennedy said. "But that's what's so great about the postseason in all sports. Guys get a chance to be a hero that maybe the world doesn't know about. Or you get to help your team where you're just kind of a small piece of it throughout the year, and on any given day, we can all be great."
Now 42, Kennedy still resides in Orange County and is often recognized by Halos fans, many of whom will forever remember him for that iconic game.
"I'm reminded about it all the time, and I enjoy talking about it," Kennedy said. "It brought the Angels back to life that year for Orange County. My first couple years, they just didn't have the buzz around town. That year kind of revived Anaheim, the Angels and Orange County. It's nice to know you had a small part in that."
Kennedy, who was acquired from the Cardinals as part of the Jim Edmonds trade in 2000, batted a team-high .312 during the regular season, but his seven home runs ranked eighth on the Halos behind Troy Glaus (30), Garret Anderson (29), Tim Salmon (22), Brad Fullmer (19), Scott Spiezio (12), Darin Erstad (10) and David Eckstein (8).
While the Angels took a 3-1 series lead into Game 5, Kennedy had gone just 1-for-10 in his first three games against the Twins.
"I remember even that morning, being in the batting cage, kind of really being frustrated with how I was feeling, trying to work it out with Mickey Hatcher, who was the hitting coach at the time," Kennedy recalled. "It wasn't working out, so I kind of shut my BP down early. I went out and took some ground balls and just tried to forget about it."
As Kennedy prepared to lead off the third inning with his first at-bat of the game against Twins right-hander Joe Mays, he resolved to swing at the first pitch. He did, driving a solo home run to right field that put the Halos on the board and cut Minnesota's lead to 2-1.
"Obviously, one swing of the bat, one jump shot, one pass, one catch in sports can kind of turn the momentum for you," Kennedy said. "So that's kind of what happened that day."
Kennedy connected for another solo shot in the fifth to briefly put the Angels ahead, but the Twins came back to score three runs in the top of the seventh to seize a 5-3 lead.
After Spiezio and Bengie Molina opened the bottom half of the inning with a pair of singles, the left-handed-hitting Kennedy came up to face lefty Johan Santana and tried to bunt the runners over. His bunt attempt went foul, and he soon fell behind in the count, 0-2. Santana then misplaced a breaking ball to Kennedy, who smoked it out to right-center field for a three-run homer that made it 6-5.
"The energy in this ballpark was off the charts," Scioscia said. "I think the lift it gave our guys was huge."
Kennedy's third homer sparked a 10-run inning for the Halos, who rolled to a 13-5 win over the Twins to clinch the AL pennant. They went on to defeat the Giants in seven games to secure their first and only World Series title in franchise history.
Kennedy, who was named the ALCS MVP, became the first player to hit three home runs in a playoff game since George Brett for the 1978 Royals. The only other players to previously accomplish the feat were the Yankees' Babe Ruth (twice) and Reggie Jackson and the Pirates' Bob Robertson.
"That was a magical game," Scioscia said. "I think you'll see guys hit for the cycle, you'll see guys have a big offensive day, but to do it in a clinching game to get a team to the World Series is special. That's a great day for Adam and a great day for us."
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.