Buehrle gem shines light toward win
Lefty's dominating performance overshadowed but critical
CHICAGO -- Years from now, let's say something like 20 or 30 down the line, when White Sox fans are recounting the franchise's first American League Championship Series victory in its storied history on a chilly Wednesday night in October, will they even remember the best pitched game of Mark Buehrle's already accomplished career?
Will they be able to answer the trivia question as to who scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth during the 2-1 victory over the Angels before 41,013 euphoric fans at U.S. Cellular Field, minus the small but vocal group in town to support the visitors from the West? The answer to that query, by the way, is pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna.
Or will they simply remember Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS as the night when the White Sox caught one of the biggest breaks in postseason history. Somewhere umpire Don Denkinger is commiserating with Doug Eddings, the home-plate umpire for Wednesday night's affair.
With the game tied at 1 in the ninth and Angels reliever Kelvim Escobar slicing and dicing his way through the White Sox lineup, A.J. Pierzynski appeared to swing and miss for Escobar's fifth strikeout in three innings and a trip to bonus baseball. Replays showed Eddings made a motion to the side with his right arm for the swing, and then pumped his hand as to signify the third out.
But Pierzynski never heard Eddings call him out, and after taking a step back toward the White Sox dugout, he raced down to first base. Catcher Josh Paul, the former White Sox backstop, who was in the game when starting catcher Jose Molina was run for in the eighth, rolled the ball back toward the field, allowing Pierzynski to reach first without a play.
Paul took over behind the plate because the Angels would have lost the right to use a designated hitter if regular catcher Bengie Molina, the DH in Game 2, had taken the field. The rules state that a DH may be used defensively but the pitcher must then bat in the place of the substituted defensive player.
Impassioned pleas from the Angels and manager Mike Scioscia, as well as a check with crew chief Jerry Crawford, followed the play but Pierzynski stayed put. Ozuna ran for Pierzynski and promptly swiped second base, coming home with the deciding tally on Joe Crede's 0-2 double off the left-field wall.
The blow to left was Crede's second double off Escobar and evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece, with the next three games coming in Anaheim. It also was a whirlwind chain of events that left the White Sox in a state of shock.
"I'm kind of speechless about it, and I don't know what to make of it at this point," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko. "You kind of feel like you got away with one."
"It's something I never have seen in baseball," added Crede with a smile. "But we capitalized, fortunately."
Eddings, who was joined by Crawford and Rich Reiker, the umpire supervisor, in a postgame interview session, claimed the out call simply was his "strike three mechanic," and Reiker added that, "Doug ruled the ball was trapped," facilitating a throw to Darin Erstad at first for the final out. Whatever the ultimate explanation, the scenario would not have been possible if not for Buehrle.
Buehrle hurled his fourth complete game this season, allowing Robb Quinlan's fifth-inning home run and only four other hits. He struck out four and didn't walk a hitter, meaning Buehrle and Jose Contreras have not issued a free pass during 17 1/3 innings in this series.
Just about any White Sox supporter can tell you that Wednesday's result turned out better than the game in which Burns threw 150 pitches.
"This was probably one of the best games of my career," said Buehrle, who is now 2-0 in the 2005 postseason. "Obviously, you don't want to go to Anaheim down 2-0. You know how good of a team they are, and you want to go out there and throw up zeros."
The White Sox took their first lead in the ALCS with an unearned run in the first inning. Scott Podsednik hit a weak grounder back to Jarrod Washburn on the mound, but Washburn threw the ball over the head of Erstad for a two-base error. Tadahito Iguchi bunted him to third, and Jermaine Dye's groundout to Orlando Cabrera scored the run.
Aaron Rowand led off the second with a double to right and continued on to third when Vladimir Guerrero bobbled the ball upon retrieval in the corner. Guerrero's throw rolled past Cabrera and continued on past Quinlan, as Rowand slid head-first into third. Third base coach Joey Cora sent Rowand home, even with nobody out, but Rowand was thrown out at the plate on a perfect strike from Quinlan to Jose Molina.
Missed opportunities on both sides set the table for a rather complicated finish. Years from now, thousands and thousands of people will be talking about being at U.S. Cellular to witness this dubious but historic moment.
But will they be talking about the moment that possibly catapulted the White Sox into their first World Series appearance in 88 years?
"If I'm Anaheim, that's a loss and the series is tied at 1-1," Konerko said. "But I don't feel like we beat them. If I'm them over there, I'm thinking we are lucky and got away with one. I think it really depends on what happens in the first half of Game 3. If we come out strong and do well, this could be one of those turning points."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.