CHICAGO -- Chicago has recently won Academy Awards and Tony Awards, but no World Series. Now Chicago (the baseball city, not the musical) is one giant step closer to a Fall Classic breakthrough. The same formula keeps working for the White Sox, who took a demonstrative first step toward their first World Series title since 1917: Stifling starting pitching. Suffocating defense. An occasional long ball. More station-to-station ball. And no more Mr. Nice Guy: Ozzie Guillen unleashed his relievers in Saturday night's 5-3 win, including Bobby Jenks, whose fastballs registered about two-and-a-half times the ninth inning temperature. That added up to an Astronomical problem.
MEMO TO OZZIE GUILLENDon't change a thing -- not even your socks, whatever color they are. Or the tires on your little sports car, even if they go flat. As the song goes, "Don't go changin' ... I love you just the way you are." Your club is on one of the most oppressive and impressive streaks in postseason history, with 13 wins in its last 14 games. You've lost once, by the blowout score of 3-2 to the Angels in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, in nearly a month. You have a chance to match the 1999 Yankees' 11-1 run as the best in postseason history. Your No. 8 hitter, Joe Crede, wins games with home runs. You've got your No. 5 hitter, Carl Everett, laying down sacrifice bunts. You keep your relievers caged up so when they finally get to a mound, they blow 100 mph smoke and Jenks looks like Lucifer to the Astros. Keep the whole show going, Act I going on IV.
REASONS TO HOPEU.S. Cellular Field may have chased Andy Pettitte out of the American League. Unlikely, of course, but he suffered more losses here (six, in nine decisions) than in any other park as a Yankee visitor. Furthermore, two of the White Sox lighter bats grow heavy against lefties -- Scott Podsednik and Aaron Rowand both hit 50 points higher against them. If the Astros are anxious about not going home in an 0-2 hole, Mark Buehrle is just the guy to exploit that by making them lunge for his change of speeds.
REASONS TO WORRYCan this keep up? Reverting to the regular season, White Sox pitchers have allowed three runs or less in 14 of 15 games, and 17 of 19. This may be an unprecedented stretch of staff-wide frugality. Don Cooper, the pitching coach, keeps saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." If it cracks, will it completely break down? There is too much quality in that rotation and bullpen for a collapse but, in a short series, even a lull can be terminal. Can Buehrle maintain the spell? It's a question we'll keep asking as it continues.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.