Sox get sweep, end Tribe's year

Sox get sweep, end Tribe's year

CLEVELAND -- Don't bother showing Ozzie Guillen the postseason predictions from Monday's newspapers or from online columnists Sunday night. Don't tell the White Sox manager what the experts on television think of his team's chances to win their first World Series title since 1917.

Guillen already knows. There will be talk of Boston's thunderous middle of the order, made up of Most Valuable Player candidates David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Curt Schilling's return to form will get a few paragraphs of notice, as will the Yankees' rise from their horrible start to another American League East title.

And the White Sox. Despite their fifth straight victory on Sunday, a 3-1 elimination beating of an Indians' team entering this past weekend in hot contention for the American League Wild Card, and a final 2005 record of 99-63, the South Siders once again will fly under the radar as prime postseason contenders. That scenario plays out just fine in Guillen's mind.

"Good for them," said Guillen, when questioned in regard to the media attention bound to be heaped upon the Yankees and Red Sox. "I like that, when the people don't expect us to do anything and they expect the big boys to do something.

"Hopefully, we sneak up and bite them. But we haven't done anything yet. We haven't earned that spotlight like everybody else."

It's hard to imagine how a team leading its division from wire to wire, covering the season's full 182 days, could be considered an underdog. It's hard to figure how a team with the White Sox strong pitching, from one to 12 on the staff, could be considered beneath even the perennial favorites.

Most of all, it's hard to understand how the team that took apart the Indians (93-69) over three games this weekend at Jacobs Field can't make a run for the top prize. Guillen actually used Sunday as a playoff, of sorts, for his own postseason roster.

Rookie Brandon McCarthy (3-2) started the game and allowed one run on six hits over five-plus innings, fanning five. Luis Vizcaino replaced McCarthy with Victor Martinez on second and nobody out in the sixth, hurling two shutout innings. And veteran hurler Orlando Hernandez made his second relief appearance in three days, picking up his first save since June 28, 2002, with two scoreless innings of his own.

Two of those three pitchers will be part of the White Sox 11-man postseason staff. Guillen's decision will be announced during Monday's morning workout.

"All three have been great. It's a tough call," Guillen said. "Picking the guys who will be in and out, I wish [general manager] Kenny [Williams] could take the job and do it for me. It's part of my job, and not an easy one."

Neither Hernandez nor McCarthy did any late campaigning to boost their respective chances.

"I know that's up in the air, and I think I've shown what I can do," said McCarthy, who has allowed five runs over 34 innings (1.32 ERA) over five starts since being recalled Aug. 30. "I think we both have."

"That's the manager's decisions," added a somewhat somber Hernandez, through translator Ozzie Guillen Jr. "I'll go with whatever the manager says."

Cleveland starter Scott Elarton (11-9) stopped the White Sox on five hits over seven innings during a victory at U.S. Cellular Field on Sept. 21, a source of great consternation for the South Siders, in terms of their collective offensive approach against the big right-hander. It was a high point of the season for the red-hot Indians and another sign of gradual American League Central erosion for the South Siders. But the White Sox exacted a little revenge Sunday.

The right-hander was touched up for one run in each of the first three innings, exiting after just two-plus innings of work. Jermaine Dye's 31st home run put the White Sox on the board in the first, and Joe Crede's single to left scored Aaron Rowand with the second run.

In the third, Paul Konerko brought home Tadahito Iguchi with a sacrifice fly to short center. The play would have been of very little consequence, except that it marked Konerko's 100th RBI. It was Konerko's second consecutive season to reach 40 home runs and 100 RBIs, and he received a big embrace from Guillen when he reached the dugout.

Thoughts of Cleveland and its improbable coast-to-coast drive to a six-game win in the Central quickly turn to Boston (95-67) for the White Sox, with Matt Clement opposing Jose Contreras during Tuesday's playoff opener. David Wells and Mark Buehrle, old friends and former teammates with the White Sox, take the hill for Game 2 in Chicago.

It's a case of the Red Sox hitting against the South Siders' pitching. It's a case of a Boston roster with vast postseason experience, compared to only 11 players on the White Sox who have played in at least one playoff game.

This battle also pits the defending champion against the best team in the American League from start to finish in 2005. The White Sox won't be given much of a chance, but the proof plays out on the field.

"Hopefully, we are playing baseball at the end of October and maybe change what people think about the White Sox," said left fielder Scott Podsednik, who finished second in the AL with 59 stolen bases.

"We are the Cinderella of the playoffs," Guillen added. "It's a great feeling when they don't pick you and all of a sudden you make it. But don't change a thing -- just play White Sox baseball. You don't win [99] games just because."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.