Poetry in Pros: Stingy White Sox playoff starters

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Poetry in Pros: Stingy White Sox playoff starters

Monday, October 18, 2010
9:08 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

When Cliff Lee took the mound at Yankee Stadium on Monday night, he was carrying some weight on his shoulders, representing the best chance the Texas Rangers have of reaching the World Series for the first time in their history; tied 1-1 heading into game 3 with the series moving back to Gotham, two wins in Lees potential two starts in the series were essential to a Texas upset. Lee delivered, going eight innings and striking out 13 batters in a 8-0 Rangers win.

But its how Lee won his first two games of the playoffsand the way he started Game 3 on Mondaythat nearly made history.

Lee managed something done only 11 other times in history in his two starts against the Tampa Rays in the ALDS: Pitch at least seven innings without walking a batter. A nine-inning, no-walk effort on Monday would have put Lee in a tie for the longest such streak in major league history, with Carl Mays, who set the mark in three starts (all complete games) for the Yankees in the 1921 World Series, and Deacon Phillippe, who did exactly the same thing for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1903.

However, with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning Lee missed high with a fastball to Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira on a 3-2 count, walking him and accounting for Lee's first - and only - free pass of the postseason.

Five pitchers in history have a longer streak than the one Lee carried into game 3, including Lee himself. The lefty spun 17 innings of walk-free hurling just a season ago, for the Philadelphia Phillies. Though he did eventually give up a walk to Teixeira, Lee was able to push his streak to 19.2 consecutive innings of no-walk baseball; setting a new personal high.

Tied with Lees streak of 16 innings pitched in the postseason without a walk heading into Monday's game were two Chicago White Sox heroes from 2005, Mark Buehrle and Jose Contreras.

Contreras started his streak with his win over the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS and stretched through his loss in the opener of the ALCS vs. the Los Angeles Angels. In his 16-inning walk-less stretch, Contreras was 1-1 with 15 hits, five earned runs, 10 strikeouts and a 2.81 ERA.

Buehrle is a more interesting study. Hes issued just one free pass in his 30 23-inning postseason careerand it was an intentional walk, to Manny Ramirez in the third inning of Game 2 of the ALDS vs. Boston. But even counting that IBB, Buehrle still could possess the third-longest walkless streak in playoff history (adding his 2008 playoff start vs. the Rays), if not for his 13-inning relief appearance en route the save in the World Series clincher vs. Houston.

So although Buehrle has an active streak of 27 straight innings pitched in the playoffs without giving up a walk, that single relief appearance in 2005 snapped his streak of startingseven-inning efforts sans walks.

During his own 16-inning starting streak in 2005, however, Buehrle went 1-0 with a complete game, gave up 12 hits and five earned runs, with 10 Ks and a 2.81 ERA.

See the complete list of stingy postseason starters here.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Preview: White Sox open series with Royals tonight on CSN

Preview: White Sox open series with Royals tonight on CSN

The White Sox open a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight's starting pitching matchup: Jason Vargas (3-0, 0.44 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (2-0, 2.84 ERA)

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White Sox snap skid by forcing, capitalizing on Indians' mistakes

White Sox snap skid by forcing, capitalizing on Indians' mistakes

The White Sox haven't had many opportunities to capitalize on mistakes from their opponents lately because they haven't been in a position to force them. 

But in their 6-2 win over the Cleveland Indians Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox put the pressure on the defending American League champions and reaped the results. 

Two plays stand out, both of which came in the sixth inning. After Omar Narvaez drew a leadoff walk, Jacob May put down a well-placed sacrifice bunt between the pitcher's mound and first base line. Indians first baseman Carlos Santana charged in and turned to underhand a toss to second baseman Michael Martinez, who was covering first. 

But the speedy May was hustling down the line, which forced Martinez to awkwardly stretch for the ball. He dropped it, allowing May to reach. 

"Anytime you you have players that are forcing defenses to complete plays you can put them in an awkward position," manager Rick Renteria said. "I don't know that that led to that in particular but he busted his rear end down the line."

That error paid off for the White Sox three batters later — after Tim Anderson and Tyler Saladino struck out — when Melky Cabrera singled to left. Narvaez was aggressively waved home by third base coach Nick Capra (a common practice with two out) but looked to be easily out at the plate on Brandon Guyer's throw. Again, though, forcing the issue paid off: Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez dropped Guyer's throw, allowing Narvaez to score. 

"That's kind of what we've been stressing in spring, play with your hair on fire," Anderson said. "That's definitely something that we've been working on and that's something we can control, that energy level and the way we hustle."

The White Sox were sparked by a three-run first inning, which ended a stretch of 23 consecutive innings without scoring a run. Anderson began with a double off Indians starter Danny Salazar and, after Saladino singled, scored on Cabrera's sacrifice fly. 

Jose Abreu followed with a line drive to right, which fell in front of outfielder Abraham Almonte and skipped past him for a two-base error, allowing Saladino to score. Leury Garcia later delivered a two-out single to score Abreu. 

"Everybody knows how good this Cleveland pitchers are, especially the first two games with (Carlos) Carrasco and (Corey) Kluber," Abreu said through an interpreter. "Our offense was silent. But today we had more life against Salazar. We know him and we did our job."

The White Sox cruised behind that three-run first inning and a solid start from left-hander Derek Holland, who allowed one run over six innings. Holland's only mistake was a third inning hanging curveball to Francisco Lindor, who launched it for a solo home run. But he came back two innings later and struck out Lindor with the bases loaded on another curveball, ending Cleveland's best scoring threat of the game. 

"Just because something happens you got to turn the page and not worry about those kind of things, and get ready for the next one," Holland said. "He may have got me that first time but I got him the second time. So those are the kind of things, you never let something take you away from your game."