10/07/05 4:05 PM ET
Notes: White Sox battle tested
Impending weather may force series shuffle
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
They decimated the American League Central to the tune of 52-22 and vanquished opponents on the road with the same relative success rate (52-29). But the statistic that jumps out and grabs opponents during the postseason is the South Siders' ability to win close games, featuring a 35-18 record in one-run games and a 26-15 mark in two-run contests.
This particular skill wasn't needed in Game 1 of the Division Series against Boston, when the White Sox crushed Matt Clement and the Red Sox by a 14-2 margin. Their five-run, fifth-inning rally against David Wells on Wednesday, though, was an all-too-familiar scenario that played out on numerous previous occasions -- whether it was in Detroit, Kansas City or most recently in Cleveland.
Confidence in tight games lets the White Sox know that as long as they are close, they certainly have a chance to win. It's a perfectly built attribute for playoff success.
"We've been playing ballgames like this, in an environment like this, all season," said White Sox center fielder Aaron Rowand of his team's propensity for playing games decided by the slimmest of margins.
"It makes a difference because it means our team already has been in a lot of pressure situations," third baseman Joe Crede added. "It's the playoffs now, but it's still the same game. So, one-run games during the season are basically the same as here."
Why are the White Sox so successful in these down-to-the-wire affairs? It starts with the ability to catch the ball, and the White Sox also manufacture runs as well as anyone in the American League. Their 53 sacrifice hits and 37 bunts led the American League and support that concept.
But as first baseman Paul Konerko points out, one- or two-run games usually come down to the men on the mound. At this time of year, offense gets you a lead, but pitching wins championships. At the very least, it puts you in control against a high-powered offense.
"Any time a team is good in low-scoring or one-run games, it's all pitching," Konerko said. "It's either the pitching holding the fort down, if you are behind in the game, giving your offense a chance to win the game like [Wednesday] night, or you are winning from the get-go and the pitching holds on the whole way.
"Not too many teams win one-run games with a bad pitching staff," Konerko added.
Ugly forecast: Winning Friday's game and closing out the first-round sweep became a little more imperative for the White Sox when glancing at weather forecast in the Boston area over the next few days. Look for heavy rain, followed by periods of heavier rain.
If a Game 4 is necessary, and it gets rained out, the extra day off certainly would benefit the Red Sox if the series went the distance. Instead of going with Bronson Arroyo in Game 5 on Sunday, they could bring back Wells on regular rest Monday. It's a thought that certainly has crossed the mind of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
Guillen said there has been no thought given on his part to possible Championship Series pitching matchups, even with the team one game away from advancement. He still is leaning toward Jon Garland following Freddy Garcia, whether it's Saturday, Sunday or Tuesday.
Pitching coach Don Cooper already has worked over a contingency plan for the next round. With the future in mind, Brandon McCarthy threw a side session Friday. But there is no thought yet as to whether the White Sox possibly could use five starters in the ALCS.
"As much as I don't want to jinx it or put the hex or whammy on it, you have to look ahead," Cooper said. "You have to have some 'what ifs?'
"The biggest thing is the game today. We have ourselves in a nice spot."
Unique experience: While the Red Sox offense is not exactly something the White Sox or any other American League staff look forward to facing at home, a number of the visitors still seem to enjoy Fenway Park's distinct personality.
"It's kind of neat, really," Crede said. "You don't play in any other parks like this one."
Crede singled out the Green Monster in left as his favorite aspect of Fenway, laughing when asked if he expected a baseball to ricochet back to him at some point.
"I haven't seen it yet, but it's possible," Crede said. "It feels like it's right on top of you."
The real deal: Shutting down David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, the power supply in the middle of the Red Sox's Major League-best offense, has been key to the White Sox success during the first two games. Holding the pair to four hits and two RBIs combined presents the White Sox with a chance to show off their own strong suit.
Possessing a truly complete team stands out as that top White Sox trait.
"This team is just solid," Rowand said. "There aren't too many weaknesses. I told someone the other day that we may not be great. The only thing in this squad that is great is our pitching.
"We aren't great at anything else, but we are really good at everything else. We don't play great defense, but we are pretty good. We don't have the greatest hitting, but we are pretty good."
Without the benefit of one or two driving forces, players such as Ortiz or Ramirez who can single-handedly beat the opposition, the White Sox rely more on a complete effort from the roster to win games.
"We've been at our best and won our most games when everyone has chipped in," Konerko said. "It's more than a couple of guys carrying the load."
Around the horn: Left-handed reliever David Sanders was outrighted to Triple-A Charlotte and left-handed starter Ryan Wing was outrighted to Class A Winston-Salem, leaving the 40-man roster at 38. ... The White Sox are 2-5 in postseason series and 16-22 in franchise playoff games.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.