ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Halo-lujah! The Angels are finally going to the World Series.
Minutes after they had squandered another postseason lead, bringing out all those painful playoff memories, Adam Kennedy broke out the biggest Thunder Stick of all.
Kennedy's third homer of the game put Anaheim ahead in a 10-run seventh inning Sunday, and the Angels humiliated the Minnesota Twins 13-5 to win the AL championship series in five games.
''It's like we're paving a new road here,'' said Tim Salmon, who's been with the Angels since 1992. ''I think this has put to rest a lot of that pain in the past.''
The Angels will open their first World Series at home Saturday against either San Francisco or St. Louis. Hollywood actor Gene Autry, the ''Singing Cowboy'' turned baseball owner who died in 1998, never got to fulfill his dream of watching his team win a pennant.
''You know about Mr. Autry, and I know he's smiling up there,'' Salmon said.
A picture of Autry was hanging throughout the weekend on a banner behind home plate.
''This was a goal of Gene's all of his life in baseball, and the fact that he was not here to see it personally, I know he's watching it from somewhere,'' said his widow, Jackie, who gave the AL trophy to manager Mike Scioscia in her role as honorary league president.
''His inspiration is what really drove this team,'' she said. ''Guys like Tim Salmon and Troy Percival and the other young men on this ballclub who knew Gene Autry wanted to get it done.''
Kennedy's final homer, a three-run drive off Johan Santana, erased a 5-3 deficit and made him just the fifth player to homer three times in a postseason game.
''Oh, man. This is tremendous,'' said Kennedy, the series MVP. ''We worked hard the last few years to bring it all together and we finally got it done.''
Anaheim, which joined the major leagues in 1961, blew past the New York Yankees to win its first-round series 3-1, then humiliated the Twins in a seventh inning that saw 15 batters come to the plate against Santana, J.C. Romero, LaTroy Hawkins and Bob Wells.
The 10-run inning tied the postseason record, as did six consecutive hits.
''They're on a roll,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''Those guys, they just keep playing. And they keep swinging. Goodness gracious, I don't know if I've ever seen an inning like that. We couldn't get anybody out. They were hitting balls through holes, over -- bullets.''
Anaheim had been one of only seven major league franchises without a pennant.
''It's the biggest game of my life,'' said Kennedy, who has 23 regular-season homers in four major league seasons and four in this year's playoffs. ''I'm going to enjoy this for a while and then get back to work.''
Twice before, the Angels had been one victory from the World Series but failed to make it. They lost three straight games to Milwaukee in 1982 and three in a row to Boston four years later, when they were one strike away before Dave Henderson's home run off Donnie Moore.
''Everybody is making a big deal of the 1982 and 1986 teams. We had nothing to do with that,'' said Scott Spiezio, who had three hits and three RBIs.
When David Eckstein caught the final out -- just as he did in the division series -- he ran over to Kennedy and tapped gloves, then danced with Salmon.
The Angels jumped on each other in a mob between first base and the mound. Fans cheered as Salmon, the team's senior member, ran around with the AL championship trophy. Percival, in his undershirt, joined teammates for a lap around the field.
''I think there is some portion of relief with some of the guys that have been through the wars here,'' Scioscia said.
After losing Tuesday's opener at the Metrodome, the wild-card Angels won four in a row. And they did it against one of baseball's great survivors.
Anticipating their team finally would ascend to the Series, some fans showed up dressed as angels, complete with wings. Others held their ''rally monkeys'' and, fittingly, the pitcher who started the game that put the team in the World Series is called ''Ape'' by his teammates -- Kevin Appier.
Through it all, they pounded together their ThunderStix, long red plastic batons that read ''The Halos Are Back'' and filled Edison Field with a steady drumbeat.
The Twins, who made the playoffs after surviving the attempt by baseball owners to fold them, had had won six straight postseason games when facing elimination, including two in the first round against Oakland.
Hoping to send the series back to the Metrodome, where they are 13-3 in postseason play, they took a 2-0 lead on David Ortiz's RBI double in the first off Kevin Appier and A.J. Pierzynski's run-scoring single in the second.
Kennedy, 1-for-10 in the first four games, started the comeback with a home run off Game 1 winner Joe Mays leading off the third, and Spiezio's homer tied it leading off the fifth. One out later, Kennedy put the Angels ahead with a drive into the right-field bleachers.
Francisco Rodriguez, Anaheim's 20-year-old rookie sensation, then brought back memories of past failures. He walked pinch-hitter Bobby Kielty in the sixth, forcing home the tying run, then threw a wild pitch that put Minnesota ahead and gave up Jacque Jones' sacrifice fly.
But the lead didn't last long and Rodriguez wound up with yet another win in the postseason. He's now 4-0 in this year's playoffs -- the first four victories of his major league career.
Spiezio and Bengie Molina singled off Santana, who had escaped a two-on jam in the sixth. Kennedy bunted the first pitch foul, fouled another pitch off with a swing, then smacked a hanging curveball over the wall in right-center.
Even he seemed stunned, not reacting until he rounded first base and started shouting. The only other players to homer three times in a postseason game were Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, who did it in the World Series, and Bob Robertson and George Brett, who did in the league championships.
''I don't show too much emotion out there,'' Kennedy said. ''When I saw the ball go over the fence, I let a little bit of adrenaline out and gave a cheer.''
Anaheim, 5-0 at home in the postseason, then punished the Twins.
Kennedy singled later in the inning, leaving him with four hits and five RBIs. Spiezio also had two hits in the inning. Spiezio wound up with three hits and three RBIs, and Salmon had three singles -- part of the Angels' 18 hits overall.
Romero walked Garret Anderson with the bases loaded, Shawn Wooten hit an RBI single, Romero threw a run-scoring wild pitch and Spiezio hit a two-run single for an 11-5 lead.
Wells hit Eckstein with a pitch with the bases loaded and Darin Erstad hit an RBI grounder.
Notes: Kennedy's only other multihomer games were July 4, 2000, against Seattle and against the Chicago White Sox on May 10 this year. The only other multihomer game of the postseason was by the Angels' Troy Glaus against the Yankees. ... The only franchises not to win pennants are Colorado, Houston, Montreal, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Texas. ... The Philadelphia Athletics scored 10 runs against the Chicago Cubs in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the 1929 World Series and Detroit scored 10 runs against St. Louis in the third inning of Game 6 of the 1968 World Series.
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