Angels just one victory from World Series

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- One win from the World Series.

For 16 years, the Angels waited to get back. Now they're on the
verge again, and just like in 1986, they have three tries at
winning the first pennant in franchise history.

"I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight. One more win and
we're in!'' Bengie Molina said after Anaheim broke up a scoreless
game in the seventh inning and beat the Minnesota Twins 7-1
Saturday night for a 3-1 lead in the AL championship series.

Rookie John Lackey outpitched Brad Radke with seven shutout
innings, postseason star Troy Glaus hit a go-ahead single in the
seventh and Anaheim broke it open against Minnesota's bullpen.

And it happened exactly 16 years to the day that the Angels were
just one strike from a World Series trip before Boston's Dave
Henderson homered off Donnie Moore, starting the Angels' downward
spiral. The Red Sox came back to win in extra innings, then won the
next two games at Fenway Park to win the series 4-3.

"We're not counting anything yet. There's a huge challenge
ahead of us,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You don't taste
it until you win four games in the series and that last out is
made. We've been around long enough to know that.''

Lackey, a 23-year-old rookie right-hander who made his major
league debut June 24, made it three straight for the Angels since
the series-opening loss at the Metrodome. He is only the No. 4
starter for Anaheim but he pitched like an ace, holding the Twins
to three singles in seven innings, striking out seven and walking
none. He didn't let a runner past first base.

"For a youngster who was in the minor leagues 3˝ months ago to
come up and do that was incredible,'' Scioscia said. "John was
about as on tonight as you could be.''

It was another electric night at Edison Field, with the crowd of
44,830 nearly all in red. Fans banged their inflatable plastic
Thunder Stix from start to finish, waved their stuffed "rally
monkeys'' and even wore feathery halos on their heads.

"One cloud away,'' read one hope-filled sign behind the Twins'

For 42 years, the theme of this franchise has been "Heaven Can
Wait,'' with the Angels failing to advance to the World Series that
founding owner Gene Autry had dreamed of for decades.

Kevin Appier can end the waiting Sunday and put the Angels in
the World Series against San Francisco or St. Louis. He will start
against Joe Mays, the pitcher he lost to in the opener. Anaheim is
4-0 at home during the playoffs.

Minnesota is one loss from a frustrating end to a surprising
season. The Twins survived the attempt by baseball owners to fold
the franchise, advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 11
years, then upset Oakland 3-2 in the first round.

"We just got to play loose and not worry and, hopefully, we can
win one and go back home,'' first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said.
"You know our record at home. If we go back down 3-2, we feel like
we've got a chance.''

Pitchers dominated as they have throughout the series. Anaheim,
which has outscored the Twins 16-7, is hitting .237, only slightly
better than Minnesota's .217.

Lackey's only previous postseason appearance was in Game 3 of
the first-round series against the New York Yankees, when he
pitched three shutout innings in the Angels' comeback from a
five-run deficit. He hadn't started since Sept. 26, but allowed
just one leadoff runner, using a sharp breaking ball and kept his
fastball down to stifle the Twins.

At the same time, Radke was blanking the Angels.

"It was a situation where I was trying to match him pitch for
pitch,'' Lackey said. "He was throwing a tremendous game himself.
Our guys have been battling all year. I knew they eventually would
come through.''

Radke, who beat Oakland in Games 1 and 5 of the first round,
allowed just two hits in the first six innings, went to just one
2-0 count and didn't go to three balls on any batters.

"He did everything he was supposed to do for this baseball
team,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Their hits were
bloops. They got one solid hit -- Glaus hit a solid ball.''

Darin Erstad singled leading off the seventh, becoming Anaheim's
third runner. When he broke for second on a steal attempt,
Minnesota's defense cracked again. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski's throw
bounced into center for the Twins' seventh error of the postseason,
and Erstad took third.

Tim Salmon walked, Garret Anderson popped out and Glaus, whose
eighth-inning homer gave the Angels a 2-1 win Friday, lined a 1-0
pitch into left field for the first run. Scott Spiezio added a
bloop RBI double that landed just inside the right-field line.

It got ugly in the eighth, after Erstad hit a one-out single and
Johan Santana threw away a pickoff for error No. 8. Anderson
singled in a run in off J.C. Romero, and Mike Jackson gave up Brad
Fullmer's two-run double and Molina's two-run triple -- his first in
two years.

Francisco Rodriguez pitched the eighth, and Ben Weber finished
the six-hitter, giving up an RBI single to David Ortiz.

Now, the wild-card Angels have three chances for that elusive
pennant-winning victory. Exactly 16 years ago, on Oct. 12, 1986,
they were one strike away when Boston's Dave Henderson hit a
go-ahead, two-run homer off Moore. The Red Sox went on to win in
extra innings, then won the next two games at Fenway Park.

Three years later, Moore shot his wife and killed himself, and
lingering memories were cited as part of the cause. Autry died four
years ago, after The Walt Disney Co. took control of the team, but
his memory lives on for the players and fans.

"We're not looking past tomorrow's game,'' Scioscia said. "Our
tunnel vision is for tomorrow.''

Game notes
Eight of the previous 10 teams to takes 3-1 ALCS leads won
the pennant. The other exception was when Kansas City beat Toronto
in 1985. ... California Gov. Gray Davis sat with Disney CEO Michael
Eisner. Actor John Travolta also watched from a box. ... Lackey and
Radke needed just 136 combined pitches to get through 6˝ innings.
... Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda was at the game to support
Scioscia, a former Los Angeles player. ... Corey Koskie struck out
in six straight ABs, an ALCS record and one short of Cesar
Geronimo's LCS record, before popping out.