Baseball-Almanac.com's Divisional Series section
2002 American League Divisional Series:
Anaheim Angels (3), New
York Yankees (1)
It would be no surprise that an American League team would once again dominate the 2002 season with powerful hitting, great defense and outstanding pitching on the mound. It would be a surprise however, that the team left standing at the end of the marathon would not be named the "New York Yankees". Unknown to everyone, including themselves, the underdog Anaheim Angels were en route to shocking the world by knocking off the defending champions 3-1 and rolling over the Minnesota Twins 4-games-to-1 for a ticket to the championship series. The Oakland Athletics were making their third consecutive trip to the Divisional playoffs after being repeatedly knocked out by the Yankees. Much like the Angels, the Minnesota Twins were also an unpredicted attendee and were making their first postseason appearance since 1991.
Things appeared to go as predicted in Game 1 as the defending champions took a series lead with an 8-5 opening win courtesy of the new generation of "Bronx Bombers". Bernie Williams' dramatic three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning capped a four-run rally that also featured round-trippers by Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi and Rondell White. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera took over for Steve Karsay (1-0) in the ninth and worked around a one-out single by Darin Erstad for his 25th career postseason save in 27 opportunities. That however, would be the last "W" that New York would muster. Games 2 through 4 clearly earned Anaheim the respect they deserved with 8-6, 9-6 and 9-5 victories. The Angels, who never had won a postseason series, beat the Yankees at their own game - with solid pitching, great defense and timely hitting. It was the first time that the Yankees had failed to reach the Fall Classic since losing to the Cleveland Indians in 1997.
The Minnesota Twins, who also happened to be the best defensive team in the major leagues, played out of character in Game 1 after committing a pair of errors in the opening frame and another in the second to fall behind, 5-1. Somehow the Twins offense managed to pick up the defense, rallying against Oakland ace Tim Hudson (who had never lost in eight career starts against Minnesota) and inexperienced lefthander Ted Lilly (0-1) in the sixth. While their defense betrayed them, Minnesota did get their usual outstanding effort from the bullpen. After starter Brad Radke (1-0) struggled through five innings, Johan Santana came up clutch striking out two over 1 2/3 scoreless frames. A.J. Pierzynski's RBI triple in the seventh made it 7-5 and Oakland was unable to mount a threat until David Justice and Mark Ellis both reached base in the ninth. Luckily, Twins lefty Ed Guardado, who led the American League in saves, sat down Adam Piatt (on a 3-2 pitch) who was pinch-hitting for Terrence Long. Oakland struck back 9-1 in Game 2 thanks to Eric Chavez, who provided the breathing room for starter Mark Mulder. Chavez continued his hitting streak with a long three-run homer in the opening inning while Mulder allowed only a single run in six frames. As a result, the Athletics were able to "save face" and even the series at one game apiece. Oakland's "balancing act" continued in Game 3 as Barry Zito labored through six innings but was supported by four home runs. Ray Durham and Scott Hatteberg combined to make postseason history by leading off the game with back-to-back homers, putting Oakland ahead early, 2-0. Teammate Terrence Long also homered tying the Division Series record for most "round-trips". Minnesota starter Rick Reed also reluctantly entered the record books by becoming the first pitcher in Division Series history to give up four home runs in a single game. If Game 3 had belonged to the "Bay Area Bombers" then Game 4 was obviously owned by the "Wonder Twins". After losing 6-3, Minnesota came out swinging and embarrassed their opponents with an 11-2 massacre. The whopping 11 runs tied the Twins' postseason high, set against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the 1987 World Series. Oakland would never recover and eventually lost their third consecutive ALDS with a heartbreaking 5-4 defeat. The victorious Twins on the other hand, would later be eliminated by the equaling surprising Angels in the ALCS en route to a World Series title.
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