White Sox 7, Houston Astros 6. You had to see this to believe it. And even when you saw it you had to pinch yourself to make certain that it was a completely conscious experience. This was a Fall Classic mini-classic; on drama, on twists and turns, and finally, on a completely unexpected finish.
The White Sox have a 2-0 lead in the 2005 World Series, but you fail to find the surprise in that. The Sox are 9-1 in this postseason. The games have been mostly close, but the cumulative effect has been domination.
The vast majority of this impressive run was built on superior pitching. But this is when you know that you are rolling in baseball. You've got everybody chanting this "pitching and defense" mantra, and presto, you win one with two great, big dingers.
Mark Buehrle didn't pitch badly, but Houston's starter, Andy Pettitte, pitched better, and the Sox found themselves on the short end of a 4-2 score going to the bottom of the seventh.
Two outs, bases loaded, Paul Konerko up. Chad Qualls enters and the baseball departs. The evening appears to have been saved by the bat of Paul Konerko. Nothing fluky about this. The man hit 40 home runs in consecutive seasons. He was the MVP of the American League Championship Series. Paulie has done it again.
But Bobby Jenks, the flame-throwing kid, cannot hold the 6-4 lead in the ninth. This might be the one aspect of the Sox current game that gives you pause. The vast majority of World Series winners in recent seasons had highly experienced closers, closers of the first rank. No matter how hard Jenks throws, no matter how much the 100 mph fastball delights the senses, he has not been down this road before.
Past 15 clubs with a 2-0 advantage
|Fifty teams have now jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the World Series, with 38 of those going on to win the championship (77.6%). Fifteen of the last 20 series, starting in 1985, have now headed to Game 3 with one team on top, 2-0. Eleven of the 15 went on to win the Series, with the outcome of this World Series still up in the air.|
Team up 2-0
|2004||Boston||St. Louis||Boston, 4-0|
|2001||Arizona||NY Yankees||Arizona, 4-3|
|2000||NY Yankees||NY Mets||NY Yankees, 4-1|
|1999||NY Yankees||Atlanta||NY Yankees, 4-0|
|1998||NY Yankees||San Diego||NY Yankees, 4-0|
|1996||Atlanta||NY Yankees||NY Yankees, 4-2|
|1989||Oakland||San Francisco||Oakland, 4-0|
|1988||Los Angeles||Oakland||Los Angeles, 4-1|
|1987||Minnesota||St. Louis||Minnesota, 4-3|
|1986||Boston||NY Mets||NY Mets, 4-3|
|1985||St. Louis||Kansas City||Kansas City, 4-3|
|Home teams have taken a 2-0 lead 35 times and have won 29 of those World Series. The Yankees lost to the Dodgers after taking a 2-0 lead in 1981, but since then, the last nine home teams to take a 2-0 edge have won the series.|
He has not flopped in this postseason. He got the save in Game 1. But Jeff Bagwell, who had struck out against him the previous night, led off the ninth with a single.
"I can get the bat head to it," Bagwell said later of the Jenks fastball.
And he did.
But this blown save is not going to echo through baseball history, because of what came next. Podsednik, the speed merchant at the top of the lineup, the catalyst of the Sox attempt to find a team that was less dependent on power and more able to manufacture runs, hits the walk-off winner in the ninth off Houston closer Brad Lidge.
It was unexpected, but it was real. Sunday night was cold and damp at U.S. Cellular Field. It was the kind of weather that reminded you only that the really bad stuff is just around the corner. But after Scotty Po hit that homer, the feeling among the White Sox faithful could have melted whatever remains of the polar ice caps.
"You know that's when stuff is going your way," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "When the guy you don't expect comes up with a home run and you ask God, well, hopefully the ball will still bounce my way."
Podsednik said that he was standing in left field the inning after Konerko hit his home run, wondering what it must feel like to hit a game-winning home run. Podsednik has really helped the cause this season, but the game-winning home run would not be one of his regular contributions. So, when it happened, how did it feel?
"Pretty much indescribable," Podsednik said.
That will suffice as a description of the work of the White Sox this October. It made a certain kind of sense when they were just outpitching everybody, because this is how the job traditionally gets done in the postseason. If the theme of this October was going to be stellar pitching, well, fine, Sox fans and baseball purists everywhere could rejoice.
But this one victory made one even larger point: One mark of a champion is the ability to beat you in any way necessary, to find a way to win when the usual way doesn't work.
Podsednik described this team as "25 guys pulling on the same rope, everybody on the same page, everybody going in the right direction."
If you've watched the White Sox go 9-1 in this postseason, if you watched them discover another path to victory Sunday night, you have a very good feeling about where that direction leads.