Wednesday, October 12, 2005

White Sox - 4 down, 7 to go…

A helluva way to win a ball game, but we’ll take it. The Sox have now played five games in this post season. All of them, except for the opening game blowout of Boston, have been decided by one or two runs.

Surely the unsung hero of the Sox this year has been A. J. Pierzynski. That was such a heads up play; not taking it for granted that he was out in the bottom of the ninth and running to first to force the action. He’s made a few plays like that this year. I remember a game against the Tigers earlier in the season when he was catching and a runner tried to steal on him. The batter didn’t clear the plate area like he was supposed to. A.J. made sure he stepped into the runner while throwing to second so that the umpire would rule interference and call the runner out. Just head’s up ball. And his handling of the pitching staff is a largely un-remarked upon reason why they are all so solid.

I don’t know if that ball hit the dirt or not. The replays they showed on TV were inconclusive. Fox News said that they were able to slow it down and see a “definite change of direction”, in other words the ball bounced up. If that’s true (and I still haven’t seen it), then the umpire got the call correct. If it didn’t bounce up, i.e. if the ball was gloved cleanly, then he was out and the Sox caught a break. On Baseball Tonight right after the game, both Kruk and Reynolds said that the Angels catcher should have tagged out Pierzynski or thrown the ball to first base, just to be sure. Either way, if I was an Angels fan, I freely admit I would have been upset by the call. Mike Scioscia was very classy in the press conference afterwards; I’d like to think that Ozzie would have reacted the same way had the situation been reversed.

The Sox only scored two runs, both unearned, but it was enough thanks to the outstanding, complete-game performance of Mark Buerhle. The Sox needed him, big-time, and he delivered. Neither he nor Contreras issued a walk in their starts.

So now it’s on to game three. I don’t know if this controversial call is going to affect the teams or not. It may make the Angels mad and they’ll really come out smoking. Or, it may give the Sox batters the lift they need to finally start hitting – it certainly seemed to help Joe Crede hit that game-winning double. More than likely, it will make little or no difference. Both teams are just too good to worry about stuff like this. And there’s no reason to think that the rest of the games in this series will be any less tense than the opening two were. What wonderful baseball we’re seeing and how fortunate we are to have the Sox in the thick of this.

Go Sox!

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