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Home » Category Listing » 2005 Postseason

October 27, 2005

It Is So

World Series Game 4: October 26, 2005
White Sox (4-0), 1
Astros (0-4), 0

W: Freddy Garcia (1-0)
H: Cliff Politte (3)

H: Neal Cotts (2)
S: Bobby Jenks (2)
L: Brad Lidge (0-2)
White Sox win the series 4-0

I have to break down and admit it: this White Sox team reminded me more of the 2004 Red Sox than I care to admit, and not just in the superficial “hey, they both finally won it all and have similar names” ways that you will hear ad infinitum in the mainstream media for months to come. I believe this is why my resistance to them has been so strong: I did not, do not, want to accept that there could be a team that was as inspiring and singular as last year’s Red Sox. Especially since this year’s version played the role of the Angels, which was not the most dignified manner to defend the championship. In retrospect, both Sox teams heated up when they needed to and for a sustained period, relished the role of the underdog, hit in a timely fashion, trotted out quality starting pitchers, and drew upon reliable (for the most part) closers.

There are differences, to be sure. The White Sox payroll this year is $75M; the price tag for the Red Sox of last year was $127M. Chicago had better defense; there’s no equivalent of the two 4-error games the Red Sox had to open their fall classic. For the first time an African American general manager (Ken Williams) and a Latino field manager (Ozzie Guillen) led a championship team. Boston would not sacrifice bunt, while this proved a winning option for Chicago in several instances.

Brandon Backe pitched like a man possessed, as if his life were on the line. Being a native Texan, it was readily apparent he did not want to go down in ignominy. He could have easily let a run slip through in the 7th inning, when Chicago threatened to break the scoreless tie. After getting the first 2 outs easily enough, which is no easy feat when Paul Konerko leads off an inning, Backe gave up a line drive single to Aaron Rowand that bounded into center field. Joe Crede, for whom a case for World Series MVP could be made, then launched a fly ball double that came agonizingly close to being a home run in the miniscule landscape of Minute Maid Park’s left field. Rowand, who isn’t the best at baserunning or reading game situations judging by his bunt attempt that ended in a strikeout in the 4th, stopped at third base because he lagged while heading into second. In an laudable effort, the Galveston-born righty returned his attention to Juan Uribe, who struck out on 4 pitches, the last strike swinging, to end the top of the 7th with the scoreless tie intact.

So, hope, though dwindling, still shone for the Astros. Phil Garner chose to pinch hit Jeff Bagwell in the bottom of that inning in place of Backe, which for the most part is a rational decision. Bagwell’s last hit, a single, occurred on September 27th against the Cardinals, however. The Bagwell of 1994 wasn’t at the plate last night, and nor has he been seen the entirety of the season. Desperate times, desperate measures, I suppose.

Brad Lidge, whose name may unfairly go down in history as a postseason goat, surrendered the only run of the game in the 8th inning to the eventual World Series MVP, Jermaine Dye. As it happened, it was the most mundane of RBIs: Willie Harris leadoff single to left, sacrifice bunt by Scott Podsednik, ground out by pinch hitter Carl Everett to advance Harris, then Dye gutshot ground ball single to plate the run. On the defensive side, White Sox shortstop Uribe initiated all the outs of the final inning, including a play on Orlando Palmeiro’s foul ball that had him weaving into the ambit of the home fans and falling into their midst while simultaneously making a stellar catch for the second out of the 9th. Such a simple sequence of events to end the 88-year dryspell of the second city’s second team.

And just like the Boston Red Sox, who toiled backstage so long while their division nemesis basked in the spotlight, the Chicago White Sox renounced their second class status and became kings of the town.

October 26, 2005

Raise the Roof

World Series Game 3: October 25, 2005
White Sox (3-0), 7
Astros (0-3), 5

H: Cliff Politte (2)
BS: Dustin Hermanson (1)
W: Damaso Marte (1)
S: Mark Buehrle (1)
L: Ezequeil Astacio (0-1)
14 innings
White Sox lead the series 3-0

What if, before a fall classic game at Fenway Park, Bud Selig proclaimed, “Congratulations, Red Sox. You’re going to have to lower the Green Monster by 5 feet, by the way.” Or, if the World Series were at Yankee Stadium: “Another crack at the title, eh? By the way, reduce capacity by 30,000 for the games here.”

That is effectively what happened to the Houston Astros last night. They were told by MLB to keep the roof open to recreate the atmosphere of fall baseball. Rather than having to cope with the full effect of a raucous home crowd, the White Sox got a diluted version of the ruction at Minute Maid Park. As a result of the league’s dictum, it may have been better off resurrecting the tomb-like Astrodome to play these games rather than play out the charade at Minute Maid. Why force a team to significantly alter one of its advantages at home? Just another one of those picayune details that, although one can’t say that it enormously impacted the game, cumulatively make this series seem less than wholesome.

Poor Ezequeil Astacio. He threw the pitch that transformed into a 2-run blast off the bat of Geoff Blum in the 14th inning to give the Chicago AL club a lead they would ride to their seventh straight playoff victory. Astacio’s given name was presumably dervied from Ezekiel, or Yechezkel, meaning “God will strengthen,” which is what the Astros desperately need to do if they hope to salvage one win from their first ever fall classic appearance. We know what graphic Fox will be using a dozen time before their 23,000 commercials hyping their program lineup: “Teams that have come back from 3 games down in a 7-game series. 2004 Red Sox*. 1975 New York Islanders. 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs. *Only team in baseball history.”

Along with the streak of four complete game wins the Pale Hose accomplished in the ALCS and possibly breaking an 88-year championship drought, the team is also poised to replicate the Red Sox eight-game run from last year’s postseason (those copycats). They are merely a pale imitation of the 2004 Red Sox, however, since they were only down one game in their ALCS.

The nooks and crannies of Astros’ home field are growing on me. Jason Lane’s leadoff homer in the 4th inning was ruled as such because it hit the wall to the right of a yellow line that presumably accounts for the jutting balcony seats above it. It reminded me fondly of similar lines on Fenway’s center field wall. I still think Tal’s Hill is a contrivance, however; nothing will ever truly recreate Duffy’s Cliff.

The Book of Ezekiel spoke of the resurrection of the dead in its pages. It might be time for the Astros to peruse that chapter. “Son of man, can these bones live?”

October 24, 2005

Getting Off Scott-Free

World Series Game 2: October 23, 2005
Astros (0-2), 6
White Sox (2-0), 7
H: Dan Wheeler (1)
BS: Chad Qualls (1)
L: Brad Lidge (1-0)
H: Cliff Politte (1)
BS: Bobby Jenks (1)
W: Neal Cotts (1-0)

White Sox lead the series 2-0

What began as a duel between the left-handed aces turned into a battle between the bullpens. And what would a White Sox game be without an umpiring controversy? The second game of the World Series with its lead changes and dramatic homers did not disappoint any except for Houston fans.

Mark Buehrle was fairly effective but far from his usual dominant self, pitching 7 innings with a line of 7 hits, 4 earned runs, no walks, 6 strikeouts, and 1 home run, a solo shot by Morgan Ensberg in the 2nd inning. The 5th inning could have been much worse than the 2 go-ahead runs driven by Lance Berkman’s 2-out double, but Buehrle recovered and he did not allow the next 7 batters to reach base.

Postseason exemplar Andy Pettitte pitched 6 innings with 8 hits, 2 earned runs, and 4 strikeouts. His 5th inning was also eventful. After relinquishing a leadoff ground ball double to Juan Uribe, Pettitte induced a short fly out to center from Scott Podsednik, keeping the antsy Uribe pinned to second base. With the count full to Tadahito Iguchi, the Astros’ lefty snagged a sharply hit ball and proceeded towards the left part of the infield to nab Uribe. Pettitte was merciless against his prey as he flawlessly executed a rundown with only a single throw. With similar sang-froid he picked off Iguchi to end the inning.

The bottom of the 7th inning reminded me of the 2004 ALCS Game 7 grand slam by Johnny Damon. The details vary, but the template is there: the beseiged pitcher who allowed the bases to get loaded is replaced by a bullpen arm only to give up a home run. The batter must know to expect a strike, so he can narrow the zone of where he expects the ball and then swing with abandon. Paul Konerko put his team ahead with a single swing on the first pitch. The score remained 6-4 until the 9th.

How the bases got loaded is a point of controversy. In the replay, it is difficult to see if Jermaine Dye was actually hit by Dan Wheeler’s pitch, which happened with a full count. But that’s what Jeff Nelson called it, and he did not deign to consult with the other umpires. He should have had the best view of that particular play, anyway, and yet the lack of official replay continues to impact the playoffs.

Would the legend of Bobby Jenks continue to grow? Could it (or he) get any larger? After looking lost in Game 1 against the cheese-dealing hulk, Jeff Bagwell muscled a looping single into shallow center field. The next two batters represented the extremes of Jenks: Jason Lane struck out on 3 straight pitches while Chris Burke walked on 4. Brad Ausmus grounded out to first base, but the placement allowed the runners to advance. Jose Vizcaino made Phil Garner look like a genius with his pinch hit line drive into the left field to score 2 runs for the tie. Jeremy Giambi take note: Burke scored the second run by sliding to avoid the tag while reaching for the plate with his hand. Sliding, quite a novel concept.

Podsednik hit his second home run of the postseason to win the game. Such a sight isn’t unfamiliar to the eyes of Red Sox fans. But Brad Lidge gave up his second game-losing round-tripper, something mournfully reminiscent to Houston fans. Will the Astros recover from their second gut punch loss in less than a week?

October 23, 2005

First Inning Fireworks

World Series Game 1: October 22, 2005
Astros (0-1), 3
White Sox (1-0), 5
L: Wandy Rodriguez (0-1)
W: Jose Contreras (1-0)
H: Neal Cotts (1)
S: Bobby Jenks (1)

White Sox lead the series 1-0

The score from last night was familiar. It was the score of Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS, the last game of the Red Sox season. And with that wistful remembrance, on with the colorless socks versus the Jetsons’ pet postseason.

When your home stadium sets off fireworks in the 1st inning of the World Series for a homerun because of tradition, one would almost prefer the legacy of the Black Sox scandal rather than Bill Veeck’s. Everyone recalls the things Veeck would do for publicity, from Eddie Gaedel to Disco Demolition Night. What goes unremembered is that he was the first to sign an African American to an American League team (Larry Doby to the Indians in 1947) and that he signed the oldest rookie in major league history as well (Satchel Paige in 1948, when the pitcher was 42).

Roger Clemens, himself now 43, entered the majors in 1984, the year prior to Ozzie Guillen’s debut. The 7-time Cy Young award winner and one-time MVP did not live up to his past excellence and lasted only 2 innings while giving up 4 hits, 3 earned runs (including the firework-prompting Jermaine Dye 1st inning jack), no walks, and striking out one. Clemens contiues to be an unknown quantity in the playoffs. Before, his mental composure was questioned; but now, it is apparent that the decades have weathered him to something less than his former glory. He left the game after reaggravating a hamstring injury.

Wandy Rodriguez was able to keep Houston in the game for the 3.1 innings he pitched, although Phil Garner tempted fate when he kept the lefty into the 6th inning with Joe Crede leading off. Rodriguez had barely escaped a huge 5th inning in which he walked the leadoff hitter and gave up a single. Ozzie Guillen gave the Astros an out by calling a sacrifice bunt play with designated hitter Carl Everett at the plate, which I suppose why some think he should be named Manager of the Year. I didn’t realize the criteria included transforming outs into lost opportunities.

With runners on second and third and 1 out, Garner called for Aaron Rowand to be intentionally walked to load the bases. The move worked as my new nemesis, the smug A.J. Pierzynski, promptly grounded into a 3-6-1 double play.

It’s not superior managing that wins games, however, but execution. Chicago bullpen pitchers Neal Cotts and Bobby Jenks combined for 2 innings of nearly perfect pitching, yielding only 1 hit and striking out the rest. The killer B’s were anything but, and the Astros were a paltry 2 out of 11 with runners in scoring position. Several hard-hit balls were snuffed by Crede, and the White Sox proved the oft-repeated maxim that pitching and defense wins championships.

Showboating does not, however. Could Jenks possibly be a little more demonstrative on the mound? He’s like a latter-day hillbilly Francisco Rodriguez. Sure, he’s as explosive as US Cellular Field’s scoreboard, but just because that is reminiscent of the bush leagues doesn’t mean that he should be as well.

October 8, 2005


ALDS Game 3: October 7, 2005
White Sox (3-0), 5
Red Sox (0-3), 3

W: Freddy Garcia (1-0)
H: Orlando Hernandez (1)
S: Bobby Jenks (2)
L: Tim Wakefield (0-1)

White Sox win the series 3-0

What would I do without the Red Sox? They’ve inspired me to learn how to correctly program my DVR, a very necessary thing since, despite the club being the defending world champions, they did not get the coveted prime time slots because of the Yankees. I was assured of not missing a pitch thanks to modern technology.

At around 11:00 AM at work Andrew of 12eight instant messengers me (is that the correct verb form?) asking me if I’d like to go to the game today. I briefly considered he might have been pranking me since I told him that David Ortiz was out of the lineup in Game 2 of this series. He had every right to retaliate, though taunting about tickets would be exceptionally cruel. But he did indeed have an extra ticket and offered it to me despite past transgressions. He gave me the opportunity to witness the Chicago AL club’s first postseason series win since 1917. That was quite a way to get back at me.

We would at least be spared the idiocies of the ESPN crew. The guys behind us, however, discussed fantasy football in excrutiating, infuriating detail throughout the evening. Is this the type of fans the club accrues with success? They might be in for some disappointment in the coming seasons should the front office decide to retool. The Red Sox proved they could be a championship team using the free agent method, but it remains to be seen if they can build a sustainable, farm system-based organization like the Atlanta Braves or the Cleveland Indians.

This is the real story of what 2004 meant for succeeding seasons. The albatross fell away when Boston learned to see baseball not through the prism of insurmountable despair but as the glorious game it is in every facet. To me, it is ever more wondrous to see the spark of talent in the young players than to rekindle the fading glint in a veteran’s eye.

Jonathan Papelbon pitched 2.2 innings perfect innings and struck out 2 after Mike Myers and Chad Bradford failed to sit their batters. In the 9th, Mike Timlin gave up a leadoff double to A.J. Pierzynski, who would eventually score to push the score further into the White Sox favor, 5-3. The future, in the form of a reinvigorated prospect pool exemplified by Papelbon, is now.

Strangely enough, I was visited by a vision of the past on the way home. On the Green Line train going inbound, Jermaine Evans and Jessamy Finet, two fans featured on Still, We Believe, boarded the train. It was crowded, so I wasn’t able to talk to them. Their expressions conveyed clearly enough what we all felt, however. Long gone were the memories of the three home runs hit by David Ortiz (1 in the 4th) and Manny Ramirez (4th and 6th innings), which represented the total offensive output by Boston last night and the only Red Sox round-trippers in the 2005 ALDS. I wanted to ask them what they were feeling as they lived through 2004, since their reactions to that season were not chronicled, and if 2004 lessened the current disappointment. But the emotions were too fresh and the pain too present, so I went my separate way after reaching Park Street.

Just as 2003’s crushing end spurred the team to address their weaknesses for the 2004 championship drive, 2005’s fading finish will inform the front office’s strategy for the coming seasons. And we might be reaping the benefits of an abundant homegrown talent base for seasons to come, not just haphazardly hitting the jackpot once. That “once” we recently experienced was phenomenal, but once is just not enough. To the future.

Not a whit; we defy augury. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.
William Shakespeare

October 6, 2005


ALDS Game 2: October 5, 2005
Red Sox (0-2), 4
White Sox (2-0), 5
L: David Wells (0-1)
W: Mark Buehrle (1-0)
S: Bobby Jenks (1)

White Sox lead the series 2-0

So the Red Sox leave Chicago, the hog butcher, tool maker, and stacker of wheat for the world, trailing in the series. This is not insurmountable. Since the inception of the wild card, four teams have rebounded from an 0-2 deficit in the ALDS: the 1995 Seattle Mariners, the 1999 Boston Red Sox, the 2001 New York Yankees, and the 2003 Boston Red Sox. A comeback, unlikely as it may seem, is not unprecedented. You don’t even need to reach very far back into the shelves of your memories to find the chronicles of improbable revivals.

Close losses sting, particularly before a travel day. Columnists, fans, television commentators, and radio personalities will endlessly cavil over minutiae, assigning blame as if they were the Moirae, weaving and reading the threads of fate that apportion to humanity their lots in life.

In the 1st inning, Johnny Damon singled to begin the inning and Edgar Renteria doubled. The table was set for David Ortiz, who struck out on a 1-2 pitch. Manny Ramirez’s fly ball over Scott Podsednik’s grasp granted the Red Sox an early 2-run lead.

Damon led off with a single to left in the 3rd inning. Down two strikes in the pitch count, Ortiz doubled to the opposite field. With runners on second and third and 1 out, Ozzie Guillen decided to intentionally walk Ramirez to put the pressure on Jason Varitek, who hits .188 with an OBP of .176 and .438 slugging with the bases loaded this season. Batting right, the Red Sox catcher went to the opposite field to notch an RBI single. Paul Konerko fielded Trot Nixon’s ground ball and could have thrown Ortiz out at home plate but opted to erase Varitek at second base.

The 4th inning showcased excellent defense by Boston. John Olerud laid out, snagged Podsednik’s sharp grounder, and relayed it to Wells, who had to engage in a foot race with the speedy left fielder for the first out of the inning. Bill Mueller knocked down Tadahito Iguchi’s ground ball that threatened to creep past him and up the line for extra bases. The stop proved vital as the next two batters, Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko, are power threats who could have brought Chicago back into the game with a single swing.

The Fates intervened in the 5th inning. Chicago leadoff batter Carl Everett reached on a single and scored on a double to left field by Aaron Rowand that just nicked the left field foul line. Mike Piazza solemnly informed us that A.J. Pierzynski’s ground out that advanced Rowand to third base was a “productive at bat.” Joe Crede hit a single up the gut to score Rowand with a grounder that Tony Graffanino could have stifled. With the pitch count 1-2, Juan Uribe, the 9-hole hitter, then poked a room service double play ball to Graffanino. The second baseman lifted his glove too early, too eager to begin the twin killing. The ball slipped through his legs and along with it went the possibility of dampening Chicago’s hot hitting. With runners at the corners and 1 out, the White Sox second baseman Iguchi, whom the Red Sox briefly courted during the offseason, launched a 3-run homer in the exultant fans in left field. The South Siders garnerd a one-run lead they would never relinquish.

The thread allotted to the 2005 Boston Red Sox playoff run dwindles to a few scant strands. This team has beguiled the Fates before, winning them over with their inimitable charm and indomitable will to tease a few more filaments of hope from its stingy holders. By Friday evening, we will see if the club’s skein will diminish to a mere empty bobbin.

October 5, 2005


ALDS Game 1: October 4, 2005
Red Sox (0-1), 2
White Sox (1-0), 14
L: Matt Clement (0-1)
W: Jose Contreras (1-0)
White Sox lead the series 1-0

When the Red Sox make the postseason, for good or ill, history is often made. The White Sox won their first postseason game at home since the 1959 World Series and had their second-best inning in their not-so-storied playoff history when they scored 5 runs in the 1st.

Clement did nothing to improve his spotty postseason renown, which was based on two starts for the 2003 Chicago Cubs with 12.1 innings pitched, 13 hits, 7 earned runs, 6 walks, 6 strikeouts, and 1 home run. In fact, he may have irrevocably damaged his reputation with his 3.1 inning appearance last night in which he yielded 7 hits, 8 earned runs, and 3 homers. He had no walks or strikeouts.

The much-coveted Contreras at last displayed why he was so highly sought after in the 2003 offseason. The righty of indeterminate age showed his unsolvable splitter to Red Sox batters over 7.2 innings, culminating in a line of 8 hits, 2 earned runs, no walks, and 6 strikeouts.

The Chicago AL club was boisterous in its offensive outburst. A.J. Pierzynski hit 2 homers while Paul Konerko, Juan Uribe, and Scott Podsednik each had four-baggers of their own. In fact, Jeremi Gonzalez gifted Podsednik with his first circuit clout of 2005 in the 6th inning. In the regular season, Podsednik’s slugging percentage was a mere .349.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox failed to cash in on several key scoring opportunities. Their momentum lurched to a standstill in the 4th inning when Kevin Millar broke for third on Bill Mueller’s sharp grounder to second baseman Tadahito Iguchi. The ball reached Iguchi more quickly than Millar anticipated and the Red Sox first baseman broke one of the cardinal rules of baseball: never make the first or last out at third.

For fans, last year’s come-from-behind win in the ALCS pays dividends to this day. My local news station just showed a series of interivews with Red Sox fans that made the journey to Chicago’s South Side for this series and most of them remain sanguine in the face of this blowout. Five-game series are harrowing, to be sure, but leaving the hog butchers of the world with a split is still possible. Even if that turns out not to be the case, comebacks in short series are not unprecedented. The 2003 Red Sox were down 0-2 in the ALDS to Oakland and won three games in a row to advance.

This isn’t 2004’s team, nor 2003’s. Pedro Martinez isn’t going to come walking through that door. Derek Lowe isn’t going to come walking through that door. And if they did they would be older and asking for more pay. Who of the team will be willing and able to heed the call? We’ll find out tonight.

October 4, 2005

The Odd Squad

The Red Sox 25-man roster for the ALDS is almost set; just one spot remains that will go to either Lenny DiNardo or Jeremi Gonzalez. My pick would be Gonzalez, who has been one of the unsung heroes of the season with his 56 innings of work with a 4.50 K/9 and 1.75 K/BB. DiNardo pitched only 14.2 innings, so his gaudy 9.20 K/9 and 2.50 K/BB is misleading. Terry Francona has opted for a 10-man pitching staff because of Bronson Arroyo’s ability to pitch on short rest.

  1. Bronson Arroyo
  2. Chad Bradford
  3. Matt Clement
  4. Alex Cora
  5. Johnny Damon
  6. Tony Graffanino
  7. Adam Hyzdu
  8. Alejandro Machado
  9. Kevin Millar
  10. Doug Mirabelli
  11. Bill Mueller
  12. Mike Myers
  13. Trot Nixon
  14. John Olerud
  15. David Ortiz
  16. Jonathan Papelbon
  17. Manny Ramirez
  18. Edgar Renteria
  19. Curt Schillling
  20. Mike Timlin
  21. Jason Varitek
  22. Tim Wakefield
  23. David Wells
  24. Kevin Youkilis

I’m calling it: Machado will be this year’s Dave Roberts. This utility player was Pawtucket’s Rookie of the Year, plays infield and outfield, is a switch-hitter, and has good speed. I track this player on the Royal Rooters message board and have earnestly hoped for his success since seeing him play back in April.

According to the Boston Herald, Jeremi Gonzalez will be the tenth pitcher. Good call! He pitched 3.1 scoreless innings of relief against the White Sox across three appearances this season, allowing only 2 hits.

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