10/23/05 1:27 AM ET
Crede, bullpen brand Game 1 win
Third baseman homers, thwarts two rallies with glove
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
That mantra prevailed throughout the White Sox clubhouse following Saturday's 5-3 victory over the Astros in Game 1 of the 2005 World Series, played out before 41,206 fans in baseball heaven at U.S. Cellular Field, fans who had waited 46 years and five days for this shining moment. But check out these statistics surrounding first-game winners, and it doesn't take much of a stretch for White Sox fans to prepare for their first baseball championship since 1917.
The winner of the first game of the World Series has gone on to win the Fall Classic 60 times (60 percent). That has been the case in seven of the last eight World Series beginning in 1997, with 2002 (Anaheim rebounding against San Francisco) the lone exception. It has also occurred in nine of the last 11 and 14 of the last 17 Series.
In addition to San Francisco, the only other exceptions in the last 17 fall classics were both by Atlanta, first game winners versus Toronto in 1992 and New York in 1996, but losers of each Series in six games. Sounds as if the White Sox are in complete control, doesn't it?
But this group of hard-nosed players didn't work its way within three wins of a World Series crown by focusing on anything past the very next game at hand.
"You have to be careful, because there are many plays and many games that can change momentum in a heartbeat," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who had two hits in his first World Series game. "You can't get caught looking ahead. The worst thing you can do is think about where we are at, anything that has to do with winning the whole thing."
"It's going to be tough to score runs in this series," added catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who reached base twice and scored the team's fifth run. "They are a great staff, but I think we have a good staff too. We just have to try to match them pitch for pitch."
Saturday's victory featured the exciting twists and turns befitting of baseball at its highest level of competition. Jose Contreras picked up his third postseason victory in 2005 and his first career World Series win, allowing three runs on six hits over seven-plus innings.
Bobby Jenks earned his third postseason save, striking out three of the four hitters he faced during his first trip to the mound in two weeks. Setup man Neal Cotts and third baseman Joe Crede both deserved official holds, even though Cotts was the only one of the two on the mound.
Contreras exited in the eighth with a one-run lead, after Willy Taveras' second leadoff double of the game, bringing in Cotts for the first White Sox relief appearance since Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. Cotts promptly yielded Lace Berkman's ground single to left, putting runners on first and third with nobody out.
Jenks and his monster fastball came into face Jeff Bagwell, who had been hit by a pitch twice earlier by Contreras. But Jenks got the best of the veteran, striking him out on a 99-mph fastball rising out of the zone with two runners in scoring position. Not bad for a rookie hurler who claimed to be working with only one pitch.
"I didn't throw nothing but a fastball. I couldn't find anything else," Jenks said.
"They both did what we expect them to do, come in and throw strikes," Pierzynski added of Cotts and Jenks. "That's what they've done. We knew they were going to be ready."
Crede continued his postseason heroics, both with the bat and the glove. With the game tied at 3 in the fourth, Crede hit a one-out home run to left-center off reliever Wandy Rodriguez. Crede's third postseason home run landed just out of the reach of Taveras, providing the margin of victory.
The at-bat took place against Rodriguez because Roger Clemens, Houston's Game 1 starter, exited after two innings with a strained left hamstring. The White Sox touched up the pitching legend for three runs on four hits, including Jermaine Dye's first-inning, opposite-field home run. It was the first White Sox home run in World Series competition since Ted Kluszewski's three-run shot in the fourth inning on Oct. 8, 1959.
It also increased the White Sox first-inning postseason scoring advantage to 13-2, while putting pressure on the Astros and their pitching legend.
"I got a fastball over the plate and did what I wanted to do with it," Dye said of his first-inning drive.
Crede took away two runs from Houston with two diving stops toward the line at third. He robbed Ensberg in the sixth with a runner on third, one out and the infield in, and did the same to Biggio in the seventh with Bagwell on third and two outs.
Basically, it was a typical White Sox effort. Great pitching and defense, with timely hitting mixed into the formula. Saturday marked the South Siders' fifth straight postseason victory and 13th win in their last 14 games overall.
But those numbers don't matter to the White Sox. The only thought on their minds are Sunday night's contest against Andy Pettitte and finishing off their place in baseball history.
"It doesn't mean anything if we don't win three more," Pierzynski said. "The Astros are really good, so it's going to be tough."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.