10/04/05 9:43 PM ET
South Side Hitmen return in rout
Five White Sox home runs set ALDS record
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Those sort of wholesale changes usually are a byproduct of a blowout, win or lose. But the White Sox were fortunate to be on the right side of a 14-2 shellacking of the defending World Series champions from Boston.
Actually, 'fortunate' doesn't seem to be an apt word where Tuesday's game was concerned. There was nothing lucky about the White Sox first playoff win at home since Game 1 of the 1959 World Series against Los Angeles, ending a streak of nine straight losses.
It was the team's first postseason victory overall since Game 3 of the 1993 American League Championship Series at Skydome, snapping a five-game skid. And the 14 runs scored Tuesday were seven more than the White Sox total from Seattle's entire three-game sweep of the Division Series in 2000.
"I guess we were due," said first baseman Paul Konerko, with his typical deadpan delivery. Konerko's third-inning blast off losing pitcher Matt Clement was one of the five home runs hit by the White Sox, tying a postseason club record.
The long balls ranged from the expected, where Konerko and Juan Uribe were concerned, to the bonus shots, with two coming from A.J. Pierzynski, and even the complete and utter surprise. With two on and one out in the sixth, Scott Podsednik launched his first home run since Sept. 30, 2004, at St. Louis, when he was playing for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Podsednik has reached double-digit home runs in a season previously but made his focus in 2005 simply to get on base and forego any sort of power stroke. Yet, he didn't think a move to the cleanup spot in the order was in the offing after his long-ball heroics.
"They aren't going to call me in the office and reprimand me," said Podsednik, who finished with two hits and a stolen base. "But I'm most valuable to this club on base and that's been the focus all season."
"We have been telling him all year he's going to hit one," added Pierzynski, who joined Ted Kluszewski as the only players in White Sox history to hit two home runs in a postseason game. "He waited for the right time, and I couldn't be happier for Scott."
The White Sox followed a perfect plan laid out by hitting coach Greg Walker on Monday afternoon, in that they scored early, starting pitcher Jose Contreras held Boston at bay and his offense built on the lead. Five runs in the first inning against Clement pretty much did enough damage to carry the team.
Podsednik was hit by a pitch to open the rally, as was Jermaine Dye, one out later. Podsednik swiped third base and scored the first run on Konerko's fielder's choice groundout. Carl Everett singled to right, on a ball Trot Nixon appeared to lose in the sun, and Aaron Rowand singled home the second run.
Boston scored twice in the fourth, after Konerko's first postseason home run in the third raised the lead to 6-0, and had Kevin Millar on second with nobody out. But Tadahito Iguchi fielded Bill Mueller's hard-hit ground ball to second and fired a strike across the infield to Joe Crede, nailing Millar at third for the inning's first out. The Red Sox would not score again.
"Thank God it was a short hop," said Crede of Iguchi's throw, which hit the dirt first, before Crede could apply the tag. "I was trying to get his attention to make the play."
"There were no outs," added Iguchi of the defensive gem, through a translator. "If it's one out, it's a completely different situation. I saw [Millar] stop, and then I made my decision."
Contreras struck out six and didn't walk a batter over 7 2/3 innings. It was his ninth straight victory overall and raised his record to 12-2 since the All-Star break. He also managed to exorcise a few demons against the Red Sox.
David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, the thunderous middle of the highly charged Boston offense, batted with runners in scoring position during two of the first three innings. But Contreras set them down without a run scoring, establishing a dominant tone early.
"Basically, just don't make a mistake," said Contreras through a translator of handling the explosive duo. "Just throw strikes and keep the ball out. That's about it."
The right-hander exited with two outs in the seventh to a standing ovation. He received one of three curtain calls from the White Sox fans, an unofficial playoff record.
But the White Sox are not getting too caught up in one victory, albeit one important, decisive victory. They understand what Boston went through in 2004 and know nothing is close to over. They certainly won't argue the opening results.
"It's a great first step, but I don't think it means all that much," Konerko said. "I said earlier these guys were down, 0-3, in the LCS and they weren't scared or lost composure then. I doubt they are going to lose it after one game in this series."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.