An Oct. 17 Sports article incorrectly said that A.J. Pierzynski of the Chicago White Sox scored the winning run in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Angels. Pierzynski was replaced by pinch runner Pablo Ozuna, who subsequently scored the winning run. (Published 10/18/2005)
White Sox 6, Angels 3
-- A.J. Pierzynski was running down the line again, in the late innings of another tie game, which was no big deal, in and of itself. Except someone was chasing him with the ball, someone who looked strangely familiar. Still, no big deal. Except now, the umpires were huddling again, and in the confusion, Pierzynski was standing on first base with a smug look on his face. And that's when it suddenly dawned on his Chicago White Sox teammates, the opposing Los Angeles Angels and 44,712 soggy, irritable fans at Angel Stadium of Anaheim:
Son of a gun, that Pierzynski has done it again.
Everyone in attendance at Game 5 of the American League Championship Series knew what was coming next, because they had seen it before, four days earlier. The next White Sox batter, Joe Crede, delivered the go-ahead hit, the whole scene playing out like an uncanny re-enactment of Game 2.
Only this time, when the White Sox poured out of their dugout after the final pitch of a 6-3 victory, amassing near the first base bag in a group hug, it was to celebrate the clinching of the AL pennant, the franchise's first in nearly half a century.
On Saturday night, against either the Houston Astros or St. Louis Cardinals, the city of Chicago will host its first World Series game since 1959, the last year the White Sox made it there. The White Sox will be seeking to bring a World Series championship to the city's south side for the first time since 1917.
"Enjoy it, enjoy it," Manager Ozzie Guillen said, sending a message to the folks back home. "Don't get too crazy in the streets . . . Feel proud about what we did."
This series will be remembered for the dominant, four-deep performance of the White Sox' pitching staff, which accounted for all but two of a possible 135 outs in these five contests -- including four complete games -- and evoked memories of the 1956 New York Yankees and the 1966 Baltimore Orioles. Jose Contreras was the latest to go the distance, on Sunday night, limiting the Angels to five hits and retiring the final 15 batters.
"You might call it lucky. You might call it great," Contreras said. "But we stepped up."
"I've never seen four horses like that," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said, "come out of the gate and pitch so well.
It will be remembered, as well, for the way one of the most feared hitters of his generation, Angels right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, was rendered useless in a 1-for-20 performance, like an AL version of the pitcher hitting -- except he was batting cleanup. Two balls out of the infield in five games? It would have never been believed.
"They took it to us pretty good," said Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy. "Their pitching staff had their way with us. We flat-out got beat by a better team."
But mostly, it will be remembered for the controversial calls, both of them occurring with Pierzynski at the plate and Angels reliever Kelvim Escobar on the mound. Who would have believed it could happen twice?
In the ninth inning of Game 2, Pierzynski ran to first base on a controversial low strike three from Escobar, was ruled safe, and scored the winning run when Crede doubled to left. The controversy lasted for days and eventually might lead to a change in the way umpires indicate strike three.
On Sunday night, all the trouble began when Pierzynski hit a tapper back to the mound with two outs in the top of the eighth and a runner on first in a 3-3 game. Escobar knocked the ball down, picked it up near the first base line, then went to tag Pierzynski as he ran past.
However, Escobar tagged Pierzynski with his glove, while the ball was in his bare right hand, something first base umpire Randy Marsh -- who called Pierzynski out -- did not see. Only when the White Sox protested, and the umpires huddled to discuss the call, was it changed to safe.
"I just ran," Pierzynski said, in a jubilant clubhouse where the air was thick with champagne fumes and cigar smoke. "[Escobar] had me out. But he tagged me with the wrong hand . . . I was innocent. I didn't do anything."
The Angels turned to closer Francisco Rodriguez, who battled Crede, chafing at a 1-2 pitch he believed was strike three. On a full count, Crede poked a grounder up the middle, past Rodriguez's glove. Although Kennedy dove to keep it in the infield, his throw to the plate was too late to get Aaron Rowand, who dived across the plate with the go-ahead run.
"They got the call right," Scioscia said about the disputed play at first. "They got it right."
The Angels had gone ahead, 3-2, with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth, a sequence that hinged around yet another disputed call -- this one involving fan interference in right field. To their credit, the umpires got this one right as well, awarding Kennedy home plate on Chone Figgins's double -- which was grabbed by the left hand of a fan who was holding a beer bottle in his right -- because Kennedy, who was running on the pitch, clearly would have scored anyway.
Two batters later, Garret Anderson brought home Figgins with a sacrifice fly to right -- giving the Angels their first lead since the end of Game 1, a span of 32 innings.
It lasted exactly an inning and a half, until Crede lined Escobar's second pitch over the wall in left, tying the game.
At that point, one could look at the lineups and see that both Guerrero and Pierzynski would get one more at-bat apiece, with the game and -- for Pierzynski -- the pennant there to be won.
Of all the people to be the goat, Guerrero? Of all the people to be the hero, Pierzynski? Of all the teams to make the World Series, after all these years, the White Sox? Who would have ever believed it?