10/04/05 10:11 PM ET
Can Wells, Boston slow Chicago?
White Sox counter with ex-protégé Buehrle
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
The Boomer is a big game pitcher? Here's a game, Game 2 of this AL Division Series, that just became a lot bigger for Wells and the Boston Red Sox by virtue of what occurred in the opener.
The Boston Red Sox were on the short end of a 14-2 score, placed there by the Chicago White Sox in direct defiance of the conventional storyline for this Series. The Red Sox were the guys with the bats. The White Sox were the guys with the arms. What if it turns out that the White Sox have both arms and bats?
This is where Wells comes in, and, the Red Sox hope, comes in at the very top of his game. His big-game, postseason credentials need no introductions. He is 10-3 lifetime in the postseason. The Red Sox need him to be 11-3 by late Wednesday night.
Why is the Boomer so good in the postseason?
"I think to be a big-game pitcher you have to, first of all, be a good pitcher," manager Terry Francona said. "It's sort of the same thing as [David] Ortiz in the club situation. David is a good pitcher and the stage doesn't affect him at all. He's done it enough that I think he really enjoys it and he's really good.
"There's always going to be some health issues. He's got some creaky joints. If we had to ask him to run a marathon tomorrow, I wouldn't feel too good. But we're asking him to pitch, and because of that, I really feel good."
Wells, asked about the White Sox on Tuesday, said a number of laudatory things about the team, but ended by suggesting: "They might be a little tense. I might not be."
That's the Boomer. He's been down this road before, and he's never been quiet while traveling.
"You know, I'm fortunate to have been able to play in a lot of postseason games," Wells said. "I think the more you play, I wouldn't say it's easier, but it's more relaxing, because you have faced situations that, you know, are pretty intense and you can get very intimidated. There's a whole lot of things that can really come into this. I feel pretty much even-keel. I got out there, you know, I stay the same person and joke around and have fun."
There is a long record of that activity on his part. Interestingly, Wells will be opposed by a pitching protégé of his, Mark Buehrle. The two pitched together for the White Sox in 2001, Buehrle's first full year in the Majors. Buehrle says he learned a lot from Wells -- about pitching, not about lifestyles. You can see the similarities; left-handed, control pitchers, they work quickly and efficiently, you have to hit your way on against them.
"I'll just go out there and try to throw zeros," Buehrle said. "I know he's going to go out there and do what Boomer does. Especially in postseason, he's a big game pitcher."
It is fascinating. Buehrle will be making his first postseason start. And yet, the circumstances of this Series put more of the pressure squarely on the 42-year-old Wells. It is one thing to lose the opener and it is another to lose the opener, 14-2. The Red Sox require a major regrouping and the place that has to start is on the mound. Fortunately for Boston, the Boomer has no record of shying away from glare of the postseason spotlight.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.