The pride of Chicago
After rough start, Contreras shut down Astros in Game 1
CHICAGO -- The wave of cheers started in the stands near the home dugout and followed White Sox starter Jose Contreras as he jogged down the third-base line to the bullpen at U.S. Cellular Field to warm up before Game 1 of the World Series against the Astros.
The White Sox faithful were showing their support of the big right-hander. Contreras did not disappoint, overcoming early troubles to finish strong in the White Sox 5-3 victory.
"I am happy that I got the ball again because that shows the confidence they have in me," Contreras said. "We have four pitchers who can start Game 1. It was an honor to be the one pitching."
It was also an adventure. Contreras was charged with three runs in seven-plus innings in the victory, his third win in four starts this postseason. He struck out two batters in the outing and allowed a solo home run in second inning to Astros first baseman Mike Lamb.
"It was really a struggle, even early in the game," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "We wanted to keep him going and to keep us in the game, and he did that. One thing about Jose is he has learned how to not give up the big inning and keep us in games."
His performance was not without incident. In the third inning, Contreras gave up three hits and two runs to turn a 3-1 lead into a 3-3 tie when Adam Everett and Craig Biggio each scored on Lance Berkman's double. But Contreras was rescued when White Sox third baseman Joe Crede gave the home team a 4-3 lead with a solo homer in the fourth.
"I think today was, he was not sharp like he was in the past," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think he was trying to throw the split-finger fastball down here, and he should be throwing up there, and that's the reason why he got in trouble."
Contreras did not find serious trouble again. He recovered to pitch four scoreless innings. He hit two batters in the seventh inning, his second and third hit batsmen of the night, to tie a World Series record. He escaped the inning unscathed, but was removed in the eighth when Willy Taveras hit a double to the gap in left-center field to lead off the frame.
"I felt good, but we had a fresh bullpen," Contreras said. "They have done a great job the entire year. I did not have a problem giving the ball to them."
Left-handed reliever Neal Cotts, who was the last White Sox reliever to pitch in the playoffs when he threw 11 days ago in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, replaced the right-hander with Taveras at second base and switch-hitting Berkman on deck.
Contreras received a loud ovation on his way off the field. Again.
"It was my first time to open a World Series. I'm happy," Contreras said. "The pitches were not going the way I wanted them to and I had to concentrate more. Thank God I was able to stay in there."
Cotts gave up a single to Berkman and then struck out Morgan Ensberg and Mike Lamb. Right-hander Bobby Jenks entered and struck out Jeff Bagwell to end the eighth. Jenks then pitched a perfect ninth to seal the win.
"We did a good job in all parts of the game," Contreras said. "And I think that is the main reason why we won."
Said Pierzynski, "He gave up three runs, but he also gave us seven innings and he also got the win. That's the biggest thing."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.