10/23/05 11:30 PM ET
Podsednik's tater lifts White Sox
Ninth-inning home run gives Chicago 2-0 series lead
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
It was a special instance in the heat of competition, the kind that is replayed over and over on highlight reels and even commercials, that almost caused White Sox center fielder Aaron Rowand to lose consciousness in the postgame celebration.
And it was a walk-off home run from Scott Podsednik, clearly the most unlikely candidate in the White Sox lineup and maybe even among position players on the 25-man roster, that moved the South Siders within two victories of their first World Series title since 1917. Ozzie Guillen's crew travels to Houston for Game 3 on Tuesday, riding the crest of Podsednik's amazing 403-foot, one-out blast to right-center off shell-shocked Houston closer Brad Lidge.
As the 50th team to grab a 2-0 series lead, the White Sox understand that 38 of the previous 49 (77.6 percent) have gone on to win the championship. Eleven of the last 12 also have been successful, with the 1996 Braves against the Yankees being the only exception.
Their only thoughts on Sunday night, though, centered on taking part in one of the greatest games of their respective baseball careers.
"Wow. I mean, wow, what a game," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who had one hit during the team's sixth straight playoff win, ninth victory in 10 playoff games overall and 14th victory in their last 15 games, dating back to the last week of the regular season. "For Podsednik to hit a home run off of Lidge, it's something that just doesn't happen."
Podsednik's blast was his second of the postseason, coming on the heels of going without one during 507 regular-season at-bats. His drive, which made a winner of Neal Cotts, followed Juan Uribe's long flyout to left-center, and came off a 2-1 fastball.
Lidge has now run the gamut of allowing walk-off blasts during the past week, going from a prolific slugger such as St. Louis' Albert Pujols in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series last Monday, to the speedy Podsednik. According to Pierzynski, Podsednik called the home run to him during batting practice earlier Sunday.
Although he didn't specify a home run of the walk-off variety, for one day, Podsednik is the White Sox answer to Babe Ruth.
"Actually, he calls a lot of home runs and they never come true," added first baseman Paul Konerko with a wry smile. "You just don't see balls off his bat that go over the fence a lot. But crazy things happen in the World Series. Everyone knows it."
The role of hero not only had jumped between players prior to Podsednik coming through, but also had leaped between teams.
Past 15 clubs with a 2-0 advantage
|Fifty teams have now jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the World Series, with 38 of those going on to win the championship (77.6%). Fifteen of the last 20 series, starting in 1985, have now headed to Game 3 with one team on top, 2-0. Eleven of the 15 went on to win the Series, with the outcome of this World Series still up in the air.|
Team up 2-0
|2004||Boston||St. Louis||Boston, 4-0|
|2001||Arizona||NY Yankees||Arizona, 4-3|
|2000||NY Yankees||NY Mets||NY Yankees, 4-1|
|1999||NY Yankees||Atlanta||NY Yankees, 4-0|
|1998||NY Yankees||San Diego||NY Yankees, 4-0|
|1996||Atlanta||NY Yankees||NY Yankees, 4-2|
|1989||Oakland||San Francisco||Oakland, 4-0|
|1988||Los Angeles||Oakland||Los Angeles, 4-1|
|1987||Minnesota||St. Louis||Minnesota, 4-3|
|1986||Boston||NY Mets||NY Mets, 4-3|
|1985||St. Louis||Kansas City||Kansas City, 4-3|
|Home teams have taken a 2-0 lead 35 times and have won 29 of those World Series. The Yankees lost to the Dodgers after taking a 2-0 lead in 1981, but since then, the last nine home teams to take a 2-0 edge have won the series.|
Instead, Dye was awarded first base. Chad Qualls replaced Wheeler, and Konerko didn't give him much of a chance to get comfortable.
Konerko launched Qualls' first offering for his fifth postseason home run and the 18th grand slam in World Series history. The whole dramatic instance was made possible by a call Dye admitted was a bit off the mark after the game.
"I would be telling you guys lies if I had said that it hit me," Dye said. "Everyone is human and makes mistakes. That's a tough call. It barely nicked the bat, so it could have nicked me, too. It's tough for him to see that. But it definitely gave us a break."
It was a break that Bobby Jenks, the White Sox boy wonder closer, gave away in the top of the ninth. Jenks' biggest issue was a one-out walk to Chris Burke, leading to Jose Vizcaino's two-out, pinch-hit single to left to tie the game at 6.
Podsednik fielded the ball as Burke reached third and made a solid throw to Pierzynski. But Burke barely beat the strike home, sliding his left hand on to the plate as Pierzynski tagged his upper arm.
An inning like the ninth would shake a lot of teams, especially with the fight put up by the White Sox to reclaim the lead. Actually, it made the White Sox angry.
Angry enough to send their newest slugger to the plate and send 41,432 off into the rain and the 40-degree temperatures as if it was a picturesque summer day in July. And if this was to be the last game played at U.S. Cellular Field in 2005, then what a fitting way to end for a team looking to have been blessed by talent, superb chemistry and more than a little bit of destiny.
"It seems like everything has been going our way," said White Sox starter Mark Buehrle, who allowed four runs over seven innings Sunday.
"You think it to a point," added reliever Cliff Politte of the destiny proposition. "But we still have two more wins to get and you can't get ahead of yourself."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.