With tonight’s ALCS game postponed due to Noreaster (Game 4 flips to Thursday, Game 5 to Friday), it seems a fantastic time to scroll back some 14 years to the most glorious day any White Sox fan had ever experienced. (“Just wait 10 days,” Future Brett says to Innocent 2005 Brett.)
Of course, that day was Game 5 of the ALCS in Anaheim, played in a drizzle that could not mute the glory of four straight complete games sweeping the White Sox into the World Series.
Jose Contreras got the start in Game 1 and took the 3-2 loss in an utterly wimpy effort, only pitching 8 ⅓ innings. (Neal Cotts faced two batters in the ninth, the only two Angels who saw a White Sox reliever all series.) It was a hard-luck loss, made more bitter by the chance at a ninth-inning rally when leadoff man Carl Everett reached on an error but Aaron Rowand sac bunt-forced out pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna at second base.
Game 2 is A.J.’s “dropped third strike” game. But due to the Campbell Soup Kid’s shenanigans, Mark Buehrle’s complete-game gem is overlooked.
Watch the video above and revisit all the terrible contact the Angels had in the game. Buehrle spun just four strikeouts over nine innings, and his win was partly dependent on his usual steady glove on the mound.
The game was played in just two hours and 30 minutes — a network-broadcast, American League game. I was there for both, and between the unseasonably warm weather (60-plus at gametime, both nights), the speed of Game 2, and of course the felonious pilfer of Game 2 by A.J., it just didn’t seem possible that the White Sox were deadlocked as the series headed out to California.
(yes, it’s the entire game, blurry and in Spanish ... you got some better baseball to watch tonight?)
Game 3 was Jon Garland’s time to shine, a second straight complete game win for a White Sox starter. And unlike the flaccid offensive efforts in Chicago, the White Sox broke out right away in this one and never looked back, Jermaine Dye doubling in Scott Podsednik and Paul Konerko homering home Dye with the only out coming on a Tadahito Iguchi sac bunt. Those two hits were the biggest win probability plays of the night, and when that happens in the top of the first, it means you’re going to win the game.
Garland finished strong, retiring the last 10 batters he faced.
The first inning marked the last time in the series I yelled at the screen with some tension (the first inning, hoping we’d score); from here on, confidence was high and any yelling was in pure celebration.
The White Sox chased Game 3 with the only laffer of the ALCS, and Freddy Garcia was the beneficiary. It was another three-spot in the first, as Konerko plated three on a home run (after a Podsednik leadoff walk and Iguchi HBP). The Angels chipped away earlier than in Game 4, plating their two runs in the second and fourth, keeping the game within reach. But a fifth-inning RBI single from Everett and a two-run safety from Joe Crede in the eighth salted the game away. Garcia didn’t end the game as dominantly as Garland a day earlier, but scattered six hits and a walk against five Ks to give the White Sox an almost-insurmountable series lead.
While the White Sox came into Game 5 with no pressure at all, it was the one contest in Anaheim where the team failed to hold a lead the entire game. But Jose Contreras was as strong as he was in Game 1, this time holding on for the win. The teams traded runs into the fifth, when the Angels hit Contreras for two scores to pull ahead, 3-2. From there, it was the Crede Show: a leadoff homer to tie the game in seventh, a run-scoring dribbler off of Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez to put the Sox ahead to stay in the eighth.
And of course, that glorious, final out in the drizzle:
The starters got a ton of attention for their miraculous complete-game streak, but in terms of win probability added, which is the best statistical case you can make for MVP, only Buehrle made a big dent (.59), with Contreras and Garland tying for second, Garcia trailing.
But Buehrle would only be the statistical MVP runner-up. To Konerko? Paul got the glory of those two, huge, first-inning blasts in Games 3 and 4. But no (and I’m proud to say that my often erroneous eye did peg this one, way back in 2005), the ALCS MVP should have been Crede, with a .74 WPA and 1.139 OPS. Dye was second among White Sox hitters in WPA, and in fact Konerko finished as a -.10 for the series.
Anyway, that’s way more than you needed to review about a series most all White Sox fans have committed to memory.
I remember, after Game 5, being the happiest I’d ever been as a White Sox fan, and feeling VERY confident heading into a series with Houston or St. Louis.
What are your memories of this day, 14 years ago?