10/25/2002 01:54 am ET
Kent takes big game in stride
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- If Thursday was Jeff Kent's last game as a Giant before the San Francisco crowd, he sure made it a memorable one.
The second baseman, who entered the game batting .188 in the previous four World Series games, sparked a 16-run outburst as the Giants downed the Angels in Game 5 at Pacific Bell Park. Kent went 3-for-5 with a pair of two-run homers and four runs scored, tying the record for runs in one World Series game.
"No, no, heck no," said Kent when someone called him the star of the game. "This World Series is bigger and better than any individual player. You just hope as a player that you can make contributions every day, and today we had quite a few guys putting runs across the board."
Kent had two hits in the Giants' Game 3 loss to the Angels, but in the other three games, he'd mustered only one other hit, a Game 2 homer. He'd also gone hitless in the last two games of the National League Championship Series.
But Thursday, Kent figured prominently in the two three-run innings the Giants slapped on the board to start the game. He walked and scored in the first inning, and in the second, he doubled and scored another run.
"It was exciting just to see him swinging the bat as well as he's capable of swinging it," said Reggie Sanders. "We all know that it's tough to go through the struggles ... especially on a large scale as it is. But there was no doubt in my mind that he was going to be able to come out of it. It was just a matter of when."
Despite that early six-run deficit, the Angels showed considerable fight, closing to within two runs before Kent's first homer, a sixth-inning shot off reliever Ben Weber. Kent, usually stoic and businesslike as he rounds the bases, showed a rare flash of emotion, smiling as he rounded first.
"We bottle up and suppress our emotions the best we can, but we're coming down to the end and I felt that that play right there was probably the capper," Kent said. "Our bullpen's strong enough going into the seventh inning there to work with four runs. When you go in with two, you still think you can get it done, but when you go in with four, that's a grand slam away."
The Giants tacked on four more runs in the seventh, including Kent's second blast of the night and third of this World Series to tie Barry Bonds and Anaheim's Troy Glaus for the Series lead. It's the second time Kent has homered twice in the postseason, the first coming in the 1997 Division Series vs. Florida.
"Yeah, we scored a lot of runs, but you know, a lot of those runs came late in the ballgame, too, when the Angels had tipped their cap to us and let that young kid who was pitching [Scot Shields] kind of finish the game out," said Kent. "It didn't matter how it was going to go."
Kent joins Benny Kauff as the only two Giants to hit two homers in one World Series game, with Kauff accomplishing the feat in Game 4 of the 1917 Fall Classic.
Kent refused to talk about his own heroics or his struggles earlier in the Series, but his teammates readily contributed their thoughts about the player who posted a .313 average, 108 RBIs and a career-high 37 homers during the regular season.
"Jeff will probably tell you he hasn't had the best Series," said J.T. Snow. "So it was good to see Jeff swing the bat the way he did tonight. We knew it was just a matter of time before he got some key hits for us."
Said Benito Santiago: "That's good for him. He's got a little frustration behind him, but this guy carried us here all year long, so sooner or later this guy's going to break in and hit the ball. He's a good hitter, and he just had bad times at the plate, but it didn't seem like that tonight. So the guy's going to be fine."
Manager Dusty Baker, also an impending free agent, admitted he thought briefly about Thursday's game being his last as a Giant at Pacific Bell Park, but did Kent allow those thoughts to creep into his mind as well?
"It might be [Dusty's last home game as a Giant], but I hadn't thought about it too much," Kent said. "I gave it a little glimmer of thought, but this Series is bigger and better than the free-agent market is going to bring and anything that I can even think about in the future, so I'm trying to live in the here and now and I'm having a great time."
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.