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Angels-White Sox: Quick hits

Angels-White Sox: Quick hits

Three reasons the White Sox will win:

1. The deeper the playoff series, the bigger the advantage for the White Sox rotation. Chicago starters held Boston's vaunted offense to nine runs over 19 2/3 combined innings -- impressive considering the opponent -- without a single pitch from 18-game winner Jon Garland. With three days off, Ozzie Guillen could set his pitching order like he wanted, with Jose Contreras facing a tired opponent in Game 1 and saving Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia for the road.

2. Paul Konerko looks like a postseason hero in the making. Yes, Chicago had plenty of clutch hitters against Boston, and A.J. Pierzynski had more hits, but Konerko's hits provided the most damage at the worst time for Red Sox fans, especially his Game 3 home run. He's been tough to pitch against ever since August, and now the rest of the country is noticing.

3. Defense wins championships: The White Sox committed one error in three games last round, and the guy who committed it -- Joe Crede -- made up for his Game 1 miscue with stellar plays in Game 3. This team just doesn't give its opponent extra outs. And the deeper Chicago's starters get into the games, the closer Chicago is to the World Series.

Achilles heel: Bandwagon Cubs fans crossing over to the South Side. The White Sox have enough history to overcome without the negative karma of the North Siders, who were openly rooting for a White Sox collapse a couple weeks ago. For some reason, Ozzie Guillen invited Cubs fans to root for them, so there had better be room for baggage on the bandwagon. How will these Sox respond as a definitive favorite, with most of America rooting for them instead of doubting them?

Key matchups: Jon Garland vs. Angels hitters. Garland either won or pitched well against every AL opponent except the Angels, who comprised two of his 10 losses on the season. One of those defeats was a quality start, but he gave up 11 hits over seven innings in the process.

Darkhorse: With Damaso Marte still battling control problems, Neal Cotts looks even better as the go-to left-hander in the White Sox bullpen. Though the Angels lineup leans toward the right side, Cotts could see more than one matchup against Darin Erstad or Casey Kotchman in a late-inning situation.

Three reasons the Angels will win:

1. They do as the White Sox do offensively, only better. They can move runners when needed, go from first to third base with reckless abandon, and they hit beyond reason with runners in scoring position. The difference is that they have the firepower to go for the long ball, and the White Sox have nobody who compares to Vladimir Guerrero. Not only did the Angels sweep the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in September, but they scored at least six runs in all three games, something no other American League team did against the Sox this year.

2. If they can keep the game close going into the late innings, their bullpen becomes an advantage. It's also well-rested thanks to Ervin Santana's long, long relief in Game 5 of the Division Series on Monday night.

3. Mike Scioscia knows how to put pressure on opposing teams, even those who thrive on putting pressure on others. He won't hesitate to let runners test White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who threw out less than a quarter of would-be baserunners, and he'll force Chicago's infield defense to play honest. If Scioscia can turn the focus from his team's fatigue towards Chicago's pressure to hold home-field advantage, he could change the course of the series.

Achilles heel: The quick turnaround from New York to Orange County to Chicago puts the Angels at a disadvantage in so many ways. Besides a fatigue factor that could last into both games at U.S. Cellular Field and force the Angels to take two back in California, the attrition of Game 5 may have cost them Bartolo Colon. He has yet to lose to the White Sox since leaving them for free agency two years ago.

Key matchups: Vladimir Guerrero vs. White Sox starters. Guerrero was injured for the Angels' first two series against the White Sox this season, then went 3-for-13 with three strikeouts, three runs scored, a home run and two RBIs at Chicago last month.

Darkhorse: The White Sox held Chone Figgins in check for two series early in the year, but he had his way against them in September, going 4-for-13 with two walks, two stolen bases, three runs, two homers and four RBIs. If he gets on base often, he'll remind Chicago's pitchers why Scott Podsednik was such a pain to opponents this season.

The winner: White Sox in five games. The Angels might not have their strength back until they come back home for Game 3. Even if they catch their breath and get back to within a game, they'll have to face Freddy Garcia in Game 4.

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

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