2002 MLB playoffs

21 06 2015

Division Series:

Half the teams turned over on the American League side of the playoffs, half were the same.  The Yankees won 103 games and were reigning 4-time AL champions; the A’s also won 103 games and were back in the playoffs for their 3rd straight year.  In the National League, there was only one new team, as the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Braves all made their way back to the playoffs.  The Giants took the Wild Card as the NL’s only new participant in 2002.

Angels at Yankees

The Yankees started their attempt at a 5th straight AL pennant in good fashion.  They overcame an ineffective start by Roger Clemens and two homers by Troy Glaus by hitting 4 homers of their own.  The last one was a 3-run shot by Bernie Williams that capped a 4-run 8th inning to give New York an 8-5 victory.

2002 K-Rod playoffs

The Angels were not a team to be taken lightly.  Anaheim’s 99 wins was the 4th most in baseball, and they beat out a formidable Mariners team for the Wild Card.  And they had a secret weapon in 20-year old reliever Francisco Rodriguez.  A late September call-up who had only pitched 5 innings in the regular season – he had a sharp curveball to go with his radar-gun fastball.  And the Yankees had never seen him before.  New York took leads in each of the next 3 games, and K-Rod pitched in relief in all 3 of those games as the Angels won 8-6, 9-6 and 9-5.  Rodriguez struck out 8 hitters in 5-2/3 innings, getting the win in games 2 and 3.  The real culprits, though, in ending the AL reign of the Yankees were the Angel hitters; Yankee pitchers just couldn’t get them out.  New York had a combined ERA of 8.21, and only got the ball to Rivera in the game 1 win.

Twins at A’s

2002 ALDS Twins A's

The A’s had finally broken through and won their division after two straight years of being the AL Wild Card.  They had a big 3 starting staff that could compete with anyone.  And they started off well in game 1 of the ALDS, scoring 5 runs behind 3 Minnesota errors in the first 2 innings.  But Tim Hudson couldn’t hold the lead and the Twins won 7-5 behind a big game from Corey Koskie.  Mark Mulder shut Minnesota’s offense down in game 2, and Oakland evened it up with a 9-1 victory.

The Twins had always enjoyed a big home field advantage in the Minneapolis Metrodome, but Ray Durham led off game 3 with an inside-the-park homer to quiet the crowd.  Minnesota was able to pull even at 3 in the 4th inning, but Jermaine Dye hit Oakland’s 4th home run and Cy Young winner Barry Zito held the Twins at bay to take a 2-1 series lead.  The A’s had made the decision to only pitch their big 3, going with Hudson on 3 days’ rest in game 4.  The Twins could have panicked – but instead went with 4th starter Eric Milton and held ace Brad Radke back until game 5.  Milton gave up an early lead, but pitched very well, while Hudson couldn’t hold an early lead, and the Twins won in an 11-2 blowout.

Back in Oakland, Mark Mulder fared much better on short rest, but Brad Radke was even better.  The Twins took a 2-1 lead into the 9th inning when all hell broke loose.  A.J. Pierzynski hit a 2-run homer in the top of the inning, and 6 batters later David Ortiz doubled home a run to give the Twins a seemingly insurmountable 4-run lead.  The A’s nearly came back, as Mark Ellis hit a 3-run home run off Eddie Guardado.  They were able to manage just a short single before Guardado got the final two outs and put Minnesota into the AL Championship Series.

Cardinals at Diamondbacks

The Cardinals exacted revenge against the defending champs after losing a close series in 2001.  A first-inning error in game 1 helped the Cardinals get to 4-time defending Cy Young winner Randy Johnson, and home runs by Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen led a 12-2 blowout.  In game 2, Curt Schilling pitched more like you’d expect from the Diamondbacks 1-2 punch, but the Diamondbacks just couldn’t score and the Cardinals scored a 9th inning run off the Arizona bullpen to win, 2-1.  Timely hitting in game 3 earned the Cardinals a series sweep as they avoided having to face the Arizona aces a 2nd time.

Giants at Braves

The Braves had the best record in the NL, but San Francisco had the best player on the planet and a solid pitching staff.  The Giants’ supporting cast stood out in game 1, as J.T. Snow, David Bell, Rich Aurilia and Benito Santiago all knocked around Tom Glavine to pace an 8-5 victory.  Snow, Aurilia and Bonds all homered in game 3, but the Braves’ staff limited the scoring there as Kevin Millwood pitched them to a 7-3 victory.

The series moved to AT&T Park, but the Braves’ pitching again came through again.  Greg Maddux paced the team to a 10-2 victory, giving up an early run and another meaningless homer to Bonds.  Bonds had homered in both games 2 and 3, however he had come up with no runners on and behind by multiple runs, so the Braves’ pitchers had felt safe to challenge him.  Glavine came back on short rest in game 4 hoping to shut the door, but the results were similar to his game 1 outing.  He gave up 7 runs in the first 3 innings, and the teams quickly looked forward to game 5.

2002 NLDS Robb Nen

Bonds hit another solo homer, but this time it was important, building a 2-0 lead that would be all Russ Ortiz needed.  Kevin Millwood allowed fewer base runners than his counterpart, but Ortiz and the bullpen pitched around trouble to get to the 9th inning with a 3-1 lead.  The Braves got the first 2 runners on against closer Rob Nen, and things looked promising with the heart of the Atlanta order coming up.  But Nen struck Sheffield out and then got Chipper Jones to ground into a double play to send the Braves on to the NLCS.

Championship Series:

Unlike the year before, the favorites hadn’t held up in 2002.  Both Wild Cards and the lowest seeded division winners had advanced.

Angels at Twins

The Twins again expected a huge advantage at the Metrodome (they were 12-2 in the playoffs going into the series), and they kept that trend in game 1.  Joe Mays outdid Kevin Appier to take a 2-1 victory.  Unfortunately, Rick Reed was not nearly as good for the Twins in game 2.  They opened up a 6-0 lead before settling in to a 6-3 victory to earn a split on the road.

That was all the Angels would need to earn their first pennant.  K-Rod picked up a relief victory in a close game 3, when Troy Glaus homered to break a 1-1 tie.  John Lackey and Brad Radke both started off with 6 scoreless innings in game 4, but the Angels blew the game open with 2 runs in the 7th and 5 in the 8th to earn a 7-1 win.  Facing elimination, the Twins had a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the 7th inning.  But the wheels fell off as Adam Kennedy hit his 3rd homer of the game to pace a 10-run inning that sent Halos to the World Series.

2002 ALCS Adam Kennedy

Giants at Cardinals

The Cardinals and Giants had the 2nd and 3rd best offenses in the NL, and game 1 of the NLCS was appropriately a slugfest.  The teams combined for 6 homers, but the big blow was a triple from Bonds that led to a 3-run 2nd inning.  San Francisco never looked back and won, 9-6.  Aurilia hit two longballs in game 2, and Jason Schmidt kept St. Louis in check over 7+ innings to give the Giants a 2-0 lead coming back to Pacific Bell Park.

Home field wasn’t friendly for the Giants, however, as Russ Ortiz couldn’t make it out of the 5th inning, giving up homers to Edmonds and Mike Matheny.  Bonds hit a 3-run shot in the 5th to tie the game, but a homer by Eli Marrero an inning later gave the Cardinals a 5-4 win and life in the series.  They looked to build on that in game 4, scratching out 2 first inning runs off Livan Hernandez.  Hernandez settled down after that, and in the 8th inning Benito Santiago homered to give the Giants the lead and a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Matt Morris and Kirk Rueter traded zeroes in the next game, but the Giant bullpen gave up a run in the 7th inning on a sacrifice fly.  But Morris loaded the bases in the 8th, leading to a situation where he had to pitch to Bonds.  The game’s best player tied the game with a sacrifice fly.  After the Cardinals mustered only a bunt single in the top of the 9th, Morris came back out and got the first 2 hitters out.  David Bell and Shawon Dunston followed with singles to put runners on 1st and 2nd.  Kenny Lofton followed with a single to become the second Giant player with a walk-off pennant-winner; Travis Ishikawa would join Lofton and Bobby Thomson 12 years later.

2002 NLCS Lofton walk-off

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