10/20/2002 01:19 am ET
Sanders breaks out of slump
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Glancing at the Giants' lineups for the entire postseason, the same eight position players have started every game, save one. That would be Reggie Sanders, who fell into an 1-for-16 hole in the National League Championship Series before sitting out Game 5 in favor of Tom Goodwin.
But that day off -- and the four following before Saturday's Game 1 of the World Series -- did a world of good for the veteran right fielder. He went 2-for-3 with a homer, a walk and two runs scored in San Francisco's 4-3 victory over the Angels at Edison International Field of Anaheim.
"I felt extremely well today," said Sanders. "Those four days that I had off and the day that [manager] Dusty [Baker] gave me off at home gave me a chance to work on what I needed to work on.
"For me, it's just a matter of not thinking about it any more, just going and getting the perfect routine down to where I needed to get into position, and today was definitely a good day for me."
Entering the game with a .147 average this postseason, Sanders still had the faith of his team, despite talk-radio critics and scathing e-mails to the team along the lines of "Reggie might go 5-for-5 tomorrow and Rally Monkeys might fly out of my butt."
During a pre-game dress rehearsal, the stadium announcer ran through a Giants lineup that didn't include Sanders and despite his struggles, just about everyone knew it had to be incorrect, since to a man, Sanders' teammates believe in him.
"We have a lot of confidence, especially in Reggie," said catcher Benito Santiago. "Reggie's been having a bad postseason, but that can go away. He hit a home run tonight, and I'm happy about that. We see him going. You never know, the man can be the MVP if he wants."
Said Barry Bonds: "It was good to see Reggie get off to a good start."
Sanders' home run came two batters after Bonds smacked a mammoth shot to start the second inning, with the raucous, monkey-waving Anaheim crowd barely having had a chance to throw down their Thundersticks and exclaim, 'Darn that Barry Bonds!'
It was Sanders' first-ever World Series homer, the third he's ever hit in the postseason, and the 36th time teammates have homered in the same inning of a World Series game.
"It was extremely sweet," said Sanders. "I've been going through some little battles, but finally it's back where it needs to be. I've been working extremely hard and it's finally paying off."
Sanders was able to stomach his recent slump -- which reached an 0-for-13 nadir at one point -- because he has been known as a streaky hitter throughout his career.
"It's been like that. This is my 11th year. So I know what I have to do," he said. "It's just a matter of not getting too low on the lows, too high on the highs. Just stay as even as you can and believe it's going to turn around, and that's what I've always done."
While homering in his first at-bat of this World Series certainly was gratifying for the 34-year-old, he was also a key part of what proved to be the game-winning rally. With two out in the sixth, Sanders, who had walked in the fourth inning only to be stranded when the Giants left the bases loaded, stroked a single.
The next batter, J.T. Snow, whacked a two-run homer that ended up being crucial when the Angels rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning.
"That was huge because of the home run he hit after that," said Sanders. "I think that's been the thing, is the timely hitting with all of us. We've had different guys step up any given day, and that's what it amounts to for being a winning ballclub and being where we are. That single was definitely a big single for me."
Sanders also savored knowing that no matter what decision he made in the offseason, he very likely would be playing in this World Series, since he almost signed with Anaheim before being lured away by the Giants.
"I was very close [to signing with the Angels]. It was like a day," he said. "I knew this team, Anaheim, was a great team, and I knew the Giants were a great team, so for me, I've always wanted to be on a team that is continuing to try to win. It's just interesting to see I'm playing them now. Nonetheless, it's still fun."
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.