Well, here we are again. The Sox are 3-0 against their NL Central opponent, needing only a win on the road with their occasionally maligned 4th starter on the hill for a sweep that would end nearly 9 decades of drought.
Of course, the White Sox road to the edge of a championship has gone somewhat differently than ours. Should they win tonight, they will put a final nail on the most dominant postseason in major league history, going 11-1 over three series and tying a postseason record for consecutive wins… at 8. The team they’d tie? The 2004 Boston Red Sox.
On the hill tonight are Brandon Backe – Houston native, childhood Biggio fan, and frequent FOX soudbite contributor – vs. Freddy Garcia, who started the final game of the Sox-squared LDS earlier this month. Backe has been better at home than on the road, but Garcia has been better on the road than at home… and has been better in general. The White Sox continue to have the breaks go their way, and after last night’s devastating 14 inning loss, the Astros will have to call up something that I haven’t seen in them in the last 3 games to stand a chance of recalling 2004 in another important way.
But first, the Latino Legends Team, announced by Edward James Olmos, who is a pretty perfect choice (for anything, really).
SP: Juan Marichal, D.R.; Fernando Valenzuela, Mexico; Pedro Martinez, D.R. Fantastic choices all.
C: Ivan Rodriguez, P.R. Really the only choice, but that doesn’t stop him from being a great one.
1B: Albert Pujols, D.R. A little early to put him on the list? Maybe, but not by very much.
2B: Rod Carew, Panama. A hitter I really don’t know enough about, actually.
SS: Alex Rodriguez, D.R. Love him or hate him, he belongs here.
3B: Edgar Martinez, P.R. 3B is a stretch, but what a hitter.
OF: Manny Ramirez, D.R.; Vladimir Guerrero, D.R.; Roberto Clemente, P.R. Roberto. Manny and Vlad are amazing, but Roberto… what a ballplayer. The Carribean Jackie Robinson, in a lot of ways (though with less of an institutional barrier).
Wait, that wasn’t a preposterously over the top and obnoxious promo. It was elegant, not really subtle, yet almost… touching. From FOX. What the hell is going on?
Ball, just outside from Brandon Backe to Scott Podsednik.
TOP 1st: 0-0
Well, wasn’t exactly 1-2-3, but it got the job done. A couple reasonably deep fly outs from Podsednik and Iguchi were followed by a well-hit double into the RF gap by Dye. He overran 2nd somewhat, and I was a bit surprised Biggio didn’t try to nail him, but Backe was able to come back from 3-1 to induce an inning ending 1-3 grounder from Konerko. 21 pitches from Backe, thanks to some deep counts; not all that good, but at this point the Astros are just looking for a ledge to hold on to.
BOTTOM 1st: 0-0
A leadoff Biggio single led to a nearly bad sac bunt; Tavares bunted in the air, but Crede couldn’t quite get to it. Crede did clearly have a shot at second, but chose to get the safe out at first instead. Berkman, whose ‘clutch’ credentials apparently ran out around the 7th inning last night, K’d fr the second out, giving the inning to Ensberg; the Astros 3B hit an oopsie squibber up the first base line to end it.
TOP 2nd: 0-0
I think Brandon Backe’s adrenaline is having a nearly crack-like effect on him. I mean, I’m not sure the dude has blinked once. He took a hard liner off his body and barely flinched. I just wish he was miked.
Backe retired the first two quickly, getting groundouts from Pierzynski and Rowand on 3 pitches combined. Crede took a little more doing, but Backe was able to pop him up with the 6th pitch of the AB; that’s 30 total, which is more respectable. Especially after last night, both these teams need deep deep starts from these guys.
Also: There really is something very funny about Kevin Millar teaching kids the fundamentals of baseball.
BOTTOM 2nd: 0-0
Mike Lamb opened the inning by absolutely hammering a ball, only a few feet short of where Blum hit his GW homer last night. Instead, Lamb’s clanged off the short fence in RF, and Lamb wound up at 2nd. Unfortunately for the ‘Stros, Garcia started cruising after that. 2 K’s to Lane and Ausmus, and then a 5-3 groundout by Everett, who has been thoroughly useless with the bat this series.
Also, the answer to the Lunesta Trivia Question (Who was the last pitcher to throw a WS CG?) is – I believe – Josh Beckett, in Game 5 of the 2003 World Series to defeat the Yankees.
TOP 3rd: 0-0 (in progress)
Did they really just do a separated at birth with Freddy Garcia and The Rock? Do they really think that there’s nothing more interesting they could have put on my screen? Lord, I hate this network.
TOP 3rd: 0-0
After two quick outs from Uribe and Garcia – both flew out to center – Podsednik drilled a ball into the same gap Dye hit his double into… except Podsednik went for third, which was pretty stupid. He made it, but only barely. Turned out not to matter, as Backe got Iguchi on a 6-3 to end the inning; another nice quick one for him.
Also, I was totally right about the trivia question. Also, the White Sox guy is my favorite I Live For This fan of the postseason. But mostly I’m just glad to be rid of those horrid Red Sox fan women they had on there for a while.
BOTTOM 3rd: 0-0
Garcia is putting the hammer down now. He’s a fascinating pitcher, and I wish that the Sox had gone after him when he was available in 2003; you could always tell that there was still talent there that might be brought out by the right coach or system. And sure enough, here he is. He K’d Backe on 4 pitches, then retired Biggio and Tavares on consecutive grounders to third. 42 pitches through 3 for Garcia; decent, not great. But then, for Garcia it probably doesn’t matter.
TOP 4th: 0-0 (in progress)
First of all, Joe Buck just made the same blinking joke about Backe that I did a while back. I may have to jump off something tall now.
Second: Okay, so you’re a 14 year old kid, and you have World Series tickets for Game 4. You have a piece of posterboard and a sharpie. You’re an Astros fan, and you want to make them a sign. What’s the first thing you put on there? Well, how about ‘I’m Cold! Close the Roof!’?
TOP 4th: 0-0
After a leadoff single by Jermain Dye, Backe won two excellent battles with K’s to Konerko (6 pitches) and Pierzynski (an epic 9 pitch AB that featured 2 foul homers). After outting 2 straight strikes on Rowand, Backe somewhat inexplicably started throwing over to first; maybe they noticed something with Dye over there. Sure enough, he took off on the 4th pitch of the AB, which Rowand swung through for the final out. Backe’s first three strikeouts of the night came in a row, striking out the side in the 4th.
BOTTOM 4th: 0-0 (in progress)
So, not only did Tim McCarver just use the ‘Houston we have a problem’ joke and act like he was being immensely clever, he somehow managed to screw it up. Seriously, I’m no longer certain he can dress and feed himself.
BOTTOM 4th: 0-0
Berkman worked a walk to open the inning, but no one would advance past first; Ensberg K’d on 4 pitches, then Lamb hit a grounder to secon that forced Berkman. Lane closed it with another force out at second, this time on a grounder to short. Neither of these teams seem to be stringing anything together, but at least the WS have a few extra-base hits; the Astros really need to take a lead early, because you have to doubt that Backe’s mojo will keep working all game.
TOP 5th: 0-0
And of course, as soon as I say it… Brandon Backe strikes out the first two he faces and gets a ground out from Garcia to end the inning. He was throwing some serious pitches in that inning; he keeps that up, we could be a zero-zero forever.
BOTTOM 5th: 0-0
Good lord, people. Score a run.
After a first pitch single, Ausmus took off on the third pitch to Everett. The shortstop grounded to third… and then Crede somehow managed to turn a 5-4-3 DP despite the hit and run. Backe put up a 7 pitch AB, but could only ground out. The shutouts continue.
TOP 6th: 0-0 (in progress)
Have I mentioned yet that Tim McCarver is such an idiot? Also, Chris Myers.
TOP 6th: 0-0
Backe. On. Fire. And, remember when I insulted Adam Everett? I take it back.
Neither Podsednik nor Iguchi grounded out with any authority. Iguchi’s in particular was an absolute squibber, which Everett made a fantastic play on, charging, barehanding, and nailing him at first by a half-step. Then Backe just made Dye look silly on a K. 8 pitches through 6; How far will Garner let him go? You sure as hell can’t take him out when he’s throwing like this.
BOTTOM 6th: 0-0
After being positively stifled by Garcia all game, the Astros finally put a little something together; after a Biggio bunt that failed to result in a hit, Tavares singled into right. Berkman walked behind him. Ensberg K’d as Tavares and Berkman took second and third. Then, After going 2-0 on Lamb, they opted to walk him in order to face Lane, a decision I really don’t get. Lane put up a battle, fouling off pitch after pitch before finally striking out. Garcia’s getting up there in pitches, but we’ve seen how good that White Sox pen is. Astros need a run somewhere, and soon.
TOP 7th: 0-0
Holy… wow. Brandon Backe, ladies and gentlemen.
That’s two deeply tense half-innings in a row, both ending with no runs scored. Backe started out with two straight outs, but surrendered a hit to Rowand. Then Crede, whos’ been one of those utter gadflies all postseason, hit a shot that clanged off the LF scoreboard. As McCarver discussed endlessly, Rowand held up a bit coming around second, and was unable to score on the double; instead of walking Urbie to get to Everett, Backe opted to go after him, and got him on a swinging K. Truly awesome work by Backe tonight; the Astros absolutely need to find a way to get this kid a W.
BOTTOM 7th: 0-0
Garcia gets another one done, retiring Ausmus on a fly out to right and Everett on a pop-out to a diving Podsednik. The final out was a slow tapper to Iguchi off the bat of Jeff Bagwell, who was hitting for Brandon Backe. Backe’s final line in this game: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 7 K, ND.
TOP 8th: 1-0 CHW
A single, a bunt, a ground out, a single. That’s all the White Sox needed off of Brad Lidge to score the first run of the ballgame, and perhaps – perhaps – the final run of the 2005 World Series.
BOTTOM 8th: 1-0 CHW (pitching change)
Politte is out, Cotts is in. With an out, Tavares was hit with a riding fastball, and took second on a wild pitch. The White Sox opted to walk Berkman and face Ensberg; the 3B gave it a decent ride, but to the deep part of Minute Maid where it settled into Aaron Rowand’s glove. Tavares took 3rd on the play, but it’s now up to Mike Lamb with two outs and Houston’s remaining life slowly draining away.
BOTTOM 8th: 1-0 CHW
Nothing. Not even a slow roller with a fast runner, misplayed by a shortstop. Vizcaino – batting for Lamb – was still out by a fraction of a step, and the Astros have still scored zero runs. 3 outs left for them; otherwise we can start getting used to the phrase ‘World Champion Chicago White Sox in 2006. The last time you could say that?
TOP 9th: 1-0 CHW
Pierzynski doubled, but that was it for the White Sox. Now? They simply need three outs. Enjoy these next few minutes, Boston fans. These are the last minutes that we will be able to call ourselves World Champs.
BOTTOM 9th: 1-0 CHW (in progress)
Paging Dave Roberts.
FINAL: 1-0 CHW
Congratulations to the 2005 Chicago White Sox, Champions of Baseball.
A 99-63 regular season, an 11-1 postseason, a 1-0 Game 4 victory to seal a sweep of the Houston Astros. This had to have been the most tense series sweep of all time; the heroes for the White Sox even in this game are numerous. Freddy Garcia, who threw 8 innings of dominant shutout ball. Jermaine Dye, who went 3-4 and drove in the final run of the 2005 season (as well as winning the World Series MVP award). Juan Uribe, who made 3 fantastic plays, including two in the ninth inning, with runners on to protect the slim margin of victory. Bobby Jenks, the rookie closer with a history of personality problems showing absolute steel – and a nasty fastball – as he closed out his team’s first World Series championship in 88 years.
For the Astros, they get closer every year. They may not have ever won a World Series game, but they have now at least appeared in a few. Maybe next year for them, but it’s this year for the White Sox. We’re World Champs no more.
On Friday, with an idea courtesy of my father, I’m going to be comparing the postseason issues of these 2005 White Sox with those of the 2004 Red Sox; in essence, comparing the 2006 White Sox with the 2005 Red Sox.
Before signing off, though, it must be pointed out that this world series ended only moments before an important anniversary; One year ago today, the Red Sox were in St. Louis, doing everything the White Sox are doing right now. Manny was holding that trophy, Curt Schilling was toasting the greatest Red Sox team ever. So, let’s congratulate these guys; without a doubt the greatest White Sox team ever assembled.