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Battle of Sox should be good yarn

Battle of Sox should be good yarn

CHICAGO -- They are among the richest, most nostalgic names in baseball history. White Sox. Red Sox.

It's tradition served up on plates of Comiskey and Fenway. It's the South Side and Beantown. Chico Carrasquel and Ted Williams. Pick your era, select your memories.

Now, for the first time, the storied franchises of Chicago and Boston meet in the postseason. The first game of their American League Division Series will unfold at 4:09 p.m. ET on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field.

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This is the White Sox first foray into postseason play since 2000's first round, when they were swept by the Seattle Mariners. They haven't won since the 1917 World Series, dispatching the New York Giants in six games.

Now there's some futility for you. They might learn something from last year's October go-round when ... now, who did win that thing?

But this is 2005, and the battle matches a formidable starting rotation (the White Sox will launch with Jose Contreras, 8-0 in eight starts since Aug. 21) against a bunch of bangers (the Red Sox have David Ortiz's 148 RBIs and 47 home runs and Manny Ramirez's 144 and 45).

Red Sox manager Terry Francona hopes to equalize the equation.

"I hope it's pitching vs. pitching," he said. "We really love our lineup. Over 162 games, our lineup has been pretty special. But to win in the playoffs, we're going to need pitching."

To that end, Francona will start Matt Clement, who had 13 regular-season victories, in the opener of the best-of-five series.

"His stuff is real, real good -- almost electric at times," Francona said. "His fastball starts moving all over the place."

When Clement eyes the White Sox lineup, he doesn't have to look far to see a vital cog. It's leadoff batter Scott Podsednik, who swiped 59 bases and helped transform the club into a speed machine.

"He's a difference-maker," Clement said. "He can make things happen. It's not just him. They have a group of guys that can run the bases and create havoc."

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen noted that at the beginning of this season, people would have called him crazy if he'd had Contreras as his opening-game pitcher.

"He's not the best pitcher, but he's the best arm," Guillen said. "One of the reasons we are where we are is because he's come up big for us every time we need a big win. He's there for us."

Guillen looks beyond mashers Ortiz and Ramirez when he evaluates the Red Sox lineup.

"Some people get caught up saying, 'Don't get beat up by these guys,' but they forget about [Jason] Varitek, they forget about [Johnny] Damon. I think the key for us about playing the Red Sox is keeping Damon and {Edgar] Renteria off the basepaths," Guillen said.

All well and good. Still, Contreras indicated his primary concern is with the big boys.

"They can hurt you bad with runners in scoring position because they have an opportunity to hit a home run on every pitch," he said.

There's that. The Red Sox were the American League's biggest scoring machine this season with 910 runs and a .281 team average. And there's this: The White Sox led the league with 99 wins and tied for the lead with 54 saves and a 3.61 ERA.

Gee, what would Nellie Fox and Mel Parnell think about all this?

Anyway, let the battle of the Soxes begin. It should make a darn good yarn.

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

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