Clemens came up big in the NLDS with three scoreless innings in relief as the Astros closed out Atlanta in an 18-inning marathon. Then Clemens returned to a starting role and came up with a 4-3 win in Game 3 of the NLCS. Clemens allowed six hits and two runs against the Cardinals and got a win when Houston broke through for two in the sixth. The Major League leader in ERA on the road (1.32) and opponents' batting average (.188), Clemens was victimized during the regular season by shaky run support. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner was not as sharp in September as he had been earlier and his Division Series start against the Braves was a loss. But the last two outings have made this yet another memorable postseason for the dynamic Rocket.
Pitches: Four- and two-seam fastball, split-finger fastball, slider, changeup
Speed: 84-96 mph
Backe put the Astros in good shape on Sunday by delivering 5 2/3 innings of quality pitching. He allowed just two hits over that span and turned it over to the Houston bullpen in a 1-1 game. This marks two straight Octobers that Backe has thrived for Houston in the postseason. He posted a 2.89 ERA in three starts last October, coming up with eight shutout innings in Game 5 against the Cardinals. Backe's 149 1/3 innings and 25 starts this year were career highs. He loves pitching at Minute Maid Park.
Pitches: Fastball, changeup, curve, slider
Chicago White Sox
Speed: Mid-80s to mid-90s mph
Contreras has stood tall as the leader of an outstanding starting rotation in the playoffs. Though he was on the short end of a 3-2 decision in the opener of the ALCS, Contreras pitched extremely well. He came back to retire the final 15 hitters in a Game 5 clincher on Sunday night. Contreras had a hot second half of the regular season and it stretched into the Division Series as he defeated the Red Sox, allowing eight hits and just two runs over 7 2/3 innings. Manager Ozzie Guillen has said Contreras has the best arm on the White Sox staff. The difference in the second half of the season, when Contreras went 11-2, was improved command.
Pitches: Fastball, split-fingered fastball, slider, changeup
Speed: 93-96 mph
Buehrle was the guy who gave the White Sox a jumpstart in Game 2 against the Angels, recording a 2-1 complete-game victory while allowing just five hits. It was the first of four complete games by Chicago's starters. Although he wasn't quite as sharp in the Division Series, the lefty still had enough to get the win over Boston. He allowed eight hits and four earned runs over seven innings. A command pitcher and an innings-eater, Buehrle slipped to some extent in the second half of the regular season. But he won his last two regular-season starts to finish 16-8. Typically, he walked just 40 in 235 2/3 innings. He has been the most consistent White Sox starter over time, throwing a sinker that allows him to get outs quickly and generally be pitch-efficient.
Pitches: Fastball, sinker, cut fastball, slider, changeup
Speed: 84-92 mph
Many observers had questioned whether Garland would be rusty when he took the mound against the Angels after a two-week layoff. But Garland quieted the skeptics with a 5-2 complete-game victory. With the abundance of rest, Garland was strong enough to go the distance, and he wound up with a four-hitter. The right-hander had a breakthrough season in 2005, going 18-10 despite a 3-5 finish. He threw more strikes this year and his confidence grew as manager Ozzie Guillen showed a willingness to stay with him if he had difficulties in the middle innings.
Pitches: Slider, four-seam fastball, sinker
Speed: 85-94 mph
Garcia joined in the complete-game fun with a six-hitter in Game 4 of the ALCS. The White Sox offered plenty of run support and Garcia limited the Angels to just two runs. It was in Garcia's start at Fenway Park during the ALDS that the White Sox ended the one-year championship reign of the Boston Red Sox. Garcia worked five innings in that game and allowed five hits and three runs. A workhorse over the course of his career, Garcia didn't have his peak season, but he was a reliable part of a formidable starting rotation with a 14-8 record.
Pitches: Fastball, slider, changeup
Speed: 90-94 mph