And then a light-hitting Chicago speedster launched his second home run of the playoffs after a homerless regular season, and the White Sox found themselves with a 2-0 World Series lead as the venue changes to Houston for Tuesday's Game 3.
Joe Cowley, of the Daily Southtown reports:
"Scott Podsednik was clearly out of his element.
"The White Sox outfielder sprinted out of the batter's box way too quickly, hit the first-base bag like he was legging out a triple, and didn't give a pump of his fist until he was almost at second base.
"Yes, Podsednik was clearly out of his element. Then again, it's not often the slap-hitting leadoff hitter is able to end a game with one swing, let alone move his team one step closer to ending an 88-year run of baseball futility."
Richard Justice, Houston Chronicle wrote about the effect the home run might have on the pitcher who threw it:
"We will soon find out how mentally tough Brad Lidge really is.
"We will find out about his confidence and resilience and a lot of other things.
"We will find out about his ability to cope with the kinds of things some athletes never have to deal with.
"'You have to put it behind you,' he said Sunday night. 'These things happen. They've happened before in my career.'
"He spoke these words in a quiet clubhouse. He said them again and again, as if repeating them would make them so."
But Lidge wasn't the only Astros reliever on the hook Sunday night. The normally reliable Chad Qualls came in after Dan Wheeler left the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, in the hope that Qualls could escape the jam and maintain Houston's 4-2 lead."
Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News wrote:
"Qualls, after all, isn't Wheeler. He's a rising star. The Astros see him as the next Lidge.
"With one pitch Sunday night, Qualls was precisely that. The following grand slam was less dramatic but arguably more significant, within the context of one series, than Pujols' home run.
"As for Paul Konerko: His two-out crush looked just like Pujols' two-out crush.
"The bridge to Lidge had collapsed."
The reason the Astros bullpen entered the game as early as it did was the biting Chicago cold, wrote Megan Manfull of the Houston Chronicle:
"The weather never used to bother Astros left-hander Andy Pettitte. He spent nine seasons with the New York Yankees, and they always lasted into October. The temperatures dipped. Rain sometimes fell. Pettitte just kept pitching.
"That's not the case these days, though. When the temperatures dropped into the low 40s at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday night, Pettitte struggled on the mound. He battled for six innings as his entire body stiffened up.
"'The weather has never been a problem for me, but there are different circumstances for me now, especially coming off elbow surgery and late in the season like this,' Pettitte said. 'It's totally different circumstances.'"
Jim Caple of ESPN.com speculated about Paul Konerko's free-agent status, and how the grand slam could be regarded come winter:
"... Had any fans at U.S. Cellular Field been able to think clearly enough while dancing in the rain and slapping hands and spilling their beers as Konerko circled the bases, they might have also had a sobering thought. That dramatic seventh-inning grand slam might have been the final time all of them did this.
"That's because if the White Sox win two games in Houston to clinch the World Series and if Konerko signs with another team this winter, it means the Chicago first baseman swung the bat for the final time in a White Sox uniform [at home].
"Granted, no one on the South Side is going to complain about a World Series championship, but still. No more Konerko at-bats? No more 'Paulie! Paulie!' chants? Say it ain't so.
"'I'm sure that ran though his mind,' White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said after Chicago's dramatic 7-6 victory in Game 2 of the World Series. 'Hopefully Jerry [Reinsdorf] and Kenny [Williams] will figure out a way to keep him. He deserves to be here. He's the heart and soul of this team, and he's put in a lot of years for this team and he deserves to stay here for a lot longer.'"
Despite the struggles of the Astros relievers, the White Sox Bobby Jenks almost handed Houston a gift after allowing two runs in the top of the ninth.
Moisekapenda Bower of the Houston Chronicle wrote:
"Later that night ... Jenks was spotted waiting at his locker before a clubhouse attendant arrived and sheepishly removed his clothing.
"His fall from grace, likely temporary, seemed complete.
"That the White Sox bullpen played a part in the outcome of the second game of the World Series made for gripping drama considering the minuscule role the relief corps had in the American League Championship Series."
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com described the atmosphere of the Astros' postgame clubhouse:
"The only missing element was the oppressive, morgue-like silence that envelops a team with a crushed spirit. Not for this Houston team. Not this year.
"As anyone who lives and dies with the Astros knows, they survived a 15-30 start to make the playoffs as a Wild Card this season and then overcame a potentially devastating Albert Pujols home run off Lidge to eliminate St. Louis in the National League Championship Series. Last year they went down 0-2 to the Cardinals on the road in the NLCS only to win three straight games in Houston to push the Cardinals to the brink.
"These guys aren't comfortable unless you tie them to the railroad tracks and dare them to wriggle free. It's just their nature."
Steve Campbell, of the Houston Chronicle elaborated:
"After 44 years of waiting just to get to the Series, the Astros will have to wait at least a little longer to win a game.
"'It's like playing ourselves out there,' Konerko said. 'These guys have a lot of heart. They don't go away. They fight.'"
The White Sox received yet another favorable close call Sunday, when Jermaine Dye was awarded first base after home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson ruled Dye was hit by a pitch that appeared to hit his bat.
Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune wrote about Dye's perspective:
"Jermaine Dye is a quiet man who does everything with calm efficiency. Atoms barely seem to move in the atmosphere around him. If he lived on the moon, his address would be Tranquillity Base.
"So when home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson surprised Dye by sending him to first base for being hit with a pitch in the seventh inning of Sunday's second World Series game, the White Sox right fielder simply went with the flow.
"'It didn't hit me,' Dye said, 'it hit my bat. I turned around, and the umpire told me to go to first. I wasn't going to argue with him.'"
And Dale Robertson of Houston Chronicle presented the Astros version:
"Brad Ausmus didn't need to analyze the sound the pitch thrown by Dan Wheeler made when it struck something on Jermaine Dye's person, either his fingers or his bat handle, in the bottom of the seventh inning.
"Ausmus said Dye's 'nonreaction' told him everything he needed to know about the controversial ruling that would cost the Astros dearly Sunday night.
"'If you get hit on [the hand] by a 90 mph fastball,' the Astros catcher said, 'you're jumping up and down. He didn't react at all.'"
Alive for Five?
Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle wrote about Roger Clemens' potential availability for Game 5:
"Officially, the Astros expect Roger Clemens to pitch Game 5 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park on Thursday.
"Of course, for that to happen there must be a Game 5 -- the Astros returned to Houston down 2-0 after Scott Podsednik's walkoff home run Sunday -- and Clemens' pulled left hamstring is going to have to feel a lot better than, presumably, it did Sunday.
"'You never count Rocket out -- by no stretch of the imagination am I counting him out,' manager Phil Garner said before Sunday's 7-6 loss, although he admitted he hadn't had a chance to find out how much, if any, progress Clemens made after a day of treatment."
Meanwhile, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reported that Clemens received a cortisone shot after Saturday's game:
"Because Clemens has responded to these shots in the past, the Astros haven't ruled out the possibility that he can pitch again in this World Series.
"However, if Clemens can't make his Game 5 start as scheduled Thursday, Astros pitching coach Jim Hickey said it's unlikely the club would opt to bring back Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt or Brandon Backe on short rest to make up for Clemens' absence.
"'It could happen,' Hickey said. 'But I don't think that's what's going to happen. But things change real quick, especially if you find yourself in a hole.'
"Instead, the Astros would probably start either Wandy Rodriguez, who worked 3 1/3 shaky innings in relief of Clemens on Saturday, or Ezequiel Astacio, who started 14 games for the Astros this season."
Ken Hoffman, of the Houston Chronicle:
"The thermometer on the bank sign by my hotel flashed '36 F' Sunday morning. The weatherwoman on TV predicted 'chilly and breezy' and 'possible showers' for Game 2 of the World Series, with low temperatures in the 30s.
That's what they call 'chilly' around here? Astros fans have another way of putting it: dead of winter. At least Astros fans have something in common with their favorite players now. We're all wearing gloves."
Gene Wojciechowski, of ESPN.com:
"The most compelling personality in this World Series, in the entire I-Live-For-This postseason, isn't on either 25-man roster. He has the beginnings of a second chin, speaks one and a half languages, and has threatened to quit if the Chicago White Sox win it all.
"Tape recorders ask for a governor's pardon when he speaks. Smile muscles call in sick. He could chat up a C.S.I. corpse.
"Ozzie Guillen is the best thing to hit October since leaf blowers, hot chocolate and -- if you were at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday evening -- Gore-Tex mittens. He is certainly the best thing for the White Sox, who won 7-6, in a game where you could see your breath and, if you looked hard, see the Houston Astros doing the World Series math in their heads."
Paul Sullivan, of the Chicago Tribune:
"As for Wrigley Field, Guillen compared it to the Statue of Liberty and said Chicago will not become a Sox town even if they win the World Series.
"'This is a Cubs town,' he said. 'You've got to win seven World Series in a row. Seven, not one. You go to Niketown, you only see Chicago Cubs stuff, and I don't blame them, because we haven't done anything yet to make that step. I want to change that."