10/16/05 2:23 AM ET
Garcia keeps it going
White Sox starters have a pack mentality in ALCS
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Garcia's six-hit, 8-2 victory in Angel Stadium on Saturday was a definitive flashback to 2001, when he owned the park's tenants.
For Don Cooper, Chicago's third consecutive complete game triggered a more emotional reminder.
As Garcia followed the leads of Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland for a 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven, the White Sox became the first team with three consecutive League Championship Series complete games since the 1973 New York Mets.
In defeating the Reds 32 years ago, Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack and Jerry Koosman turned in the threepeat.
Informed of that, Cooper, a 48-year-old native New Yorker, shook his head and took a quick mind trip.
"Now you're getting close to me. ... I grew up in New York, and those 1969-1973 Mets were my team," said Cooper, who then began reciting their entire pitching staff. "Seaver, Koosman, Matlack, [Nolan] Ryan, Gary Gentry, Tug McGraw, Ron Taylor ... I know all the names.
"Wow ... These guys should be flattered to be mentioned with them. And I'm sure they will be flattered, when they find out what they've accomplished."
Nothing short of a modern miracle, that's what.
Four Major League teams didn't have as many as three complete games this entire season. Six others went the route only four times in 162 games.
In October, when it means the most and arms are the heaviest, three White Sox have gone all the way in 72 hours.
"I was trying to do my job. I tried to follow those guys," said Garcia, who was pitching for the first time since working last Friday's Division Series clincher in Boston, and for the first time as a daddy. His wife, Glendys, delivered their first child Wednesday evening.
"They'd asked me, 'What do you want to do?' I told them, 'I'll try the best I can.' And I did."
He's done this before, to these guys. Garcia's career numbers against the Angels -- an 11-3 record, 2.66 ERA -- don't even begin to tell that 2001 story.
That season, while still pitching for the Seattle Mariners, Garcia went 6-0 against the Angels, with an ERA of 0.94 in the six starts.
No wonder he still feels at home in Orange County, and again kept the Chicago relievers, well, penned up.
It was almost embarrassingly easy. For the second straight game, Paul Konerko and the White Sox erupted for more runs in the first inning (three) than the Angels would score the whole game.
Again faced with the quick deficit and increasingly anxious, the Angels were putty to Garcia's array of mixed-speed pitches.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, throwing a blanket over all of the starters he has handled to near-perfection, said, "They're getting strike one and, when ahead, all of them have been able to use all of their pitches."
"In any situation," Pierzynski added, "they've been able to throw curve, slider, changeup, fastball. Once we get ahead, they've been pretty good at putting guys away."
In Complete Control
|White Sox starters have tossed three consecutive complete games in the 2005 ALCS. The only other time that feat has been accomplished in an LCS was 1973 when the Mets' Tom Seaver (8.1, L), Jon Matlack (9.0, W) and Jerry Koosman (9.0 W) did it against the Cincinnati Reds.|
|4||Freddy Garcia||9||6||2||2||1||5||W, 8-2|
|3||Jon Garland||9||4||2||2||1||7||W, 5-2|
|2||Mark Buehrle||9||5||1||1||0||4||W, 2-1|
Complete games have become a rarity for a variety of reasons, but one of them clearly is the wish to protect arms.
So Cooper was asked whether, were it not for an awareness of the streak being built, Garcia normally would have been allowed to complete an October game he led by six runs -- with a cadre of relievers begging for some action.
"He's not going to pitch again in this series," Cooper said. "And he went into the ninth having thrown about as many pitches (104) as Garland had [Friday]. We wouldn't do it just to make a point. Freddy wanted to stay in there."
Garcia made that crystal clear in the ninth, when Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen followed Adam Kennedy's leadoff single with a mound visit.
"We thought about going to the bullpen, but Ozzie wanted to give him a chance," said Cooper, "so he went out to ask his opinion."
"He asked me how I feel," Garcia said, "and I said I was fine."
Chances are he made that point a bit more emphatically. "Freddy basically told him to get out of there," Cooper said.
No wonder Garcia did not want to relinquish the ball. Who would want to pitch only into, not out of, the ninth and be called a wimp?
"They're good friends," Cooper said of his postseason rotation, "but they've got a healthy competition going on. 'If he completes the game, I want to complete my game.'
"We've had that all year, but now it's more magnified. Nobody wants to be trailing the pack. Everyone wants to be the lead dog."
In the spirit of that competition, the Angels could be really up against it in Game 5 on Sunday night. Starting against them will be Jose Contreras, the only Chicago starter who has not gone the route in the series.
Contreras went a mere 8 1/3 innings in Game 1 on Tuesday. The only way to overcome that stigma is to be the one to pitch the White Sox into their first World Series in 46 years.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.