The Anaheim Angels had made the playoffs three times prior to 2002 with the same result. A series loss. The 1982 and 1986 series losses were especially hard to take as the Angels lost three consecutive elimination games in losing to Milwaukee and Boston.
In 2002 the opening series for the Anaheim Angels looked like it would be another crushing defeat for the Angels. The New York Yankees rallied twice in the late innings to steal game one away from the Angels.
However, game two was different as the Angels would not be denied jumping on top early and holding on late to even the series at one game a piece. Game three shifted the scene back to Anaheim for the first home playoff game since the heartbreaking game 5 defeat to the Boston Red Sox in 1986.
This game did not start well for the Halos as they quickly fell behind 6-1. However, like they had done so many times during the season, the Angels believed in the power of the Rally Monkey. The team slowly chipped away at the Yankees lead and finally forged in front in the seventh inning. For good measure Tim Salmon hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth to ice the 9-6 victory.
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This set the stage again for the Angels to again win a series and move on to the ALCS. Jarrod Washburn took the mound for the Angels and locked up in a pitcher’s due with the Yankees David Wells for the first four innings.
With the score tied at one going into the top of the fifth, the Yankees scratched across a run on a double and two fly outs to take a 2-1 lead. With the crowd getting nervous, the Angels put together one of their best innings of the season to take control of the game.
Shawn Wooten led off the inning with a home run to left-center to tie th game at 2. The Angels didn’t stop there. Darin Erstad, Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson and later Scott Spiezio drove in single runs with RBI singles to give the Angels a 6-2 lead. However, the Angels were not done. Wooten came up again and drove in another run with an RBI-single. Bennie Molina then capped the 8-run uprising with a two-run double. The Angels now led 9-2.
From there the Angel bullpen locked the game down despite giving up single runs in the 6th, 7th, and 9th innings. When Troy Percival took the mound in the ninth inning the Angels were leading 9-4 and three outs away from that elusive first playoff series win.
Percival got the first two outs quickly getting Derek Jeter to strike out and Jason Gianni to hit a lazy fly ball to center field which Darin Erstad caught for the second out. Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada got consecutive singles. A Raul Mondesi single drove in Williams to make the score 9-5. Percival finally closed it out inducing Nick Johnson to pop-up to David Eckstein and the Angels had knocked out the Yankees to gain their first playoff series victory.
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More importantly for the Angels they were moving one step closer to the World Series. The Angels would face the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS. The 45.067 fans who were there on October 5th, 2002 will never forget this moment including me.