Tuesday, October 26, 2010
By Brett Ballantini
Happy anniversary, Chicago White Sox fans.
Five years ago today, the South Siders won two games that clinched their first World Series in 88 years.
The sorta daynight World Series doubleheader -- won on Geoff Blums homerMark Buehrles save (!) in the early morning of Oct. 26, 2005 and Jermaine Dyes singleJuan Uribes defense later that night to cap the sweep -- made this date magical for millions of White Sox fans, including me.
I was lucky enough to be in the stands for every home game and even filmed some of the most extraordinary moments of the playoffs, including Paul Konerkos grand slam in Game 1 of the World Series. I shared every home playoff win with my father, and also some with my wife and uncle. None of us were under the illusion that World Series wins would become routine for the White Sox, so the mixture of joy and shock over each victory was almost instantly cherished and pressed into a scrapbook.
After taking a look at the starting pitching that drove the White Sox through the 2005 postseason, its time to count down the 10 biggest momentum-changing plays of Chicagos playoff run.
This is no ordinary, emotional list, mind you. Im tapping into the in-game statistic called Winning Teams Win Probability Added (wWPA), which calculates the amount that each play increased or decreased the eventual winning teams probability of winning the game.
10. Joe Credes ALCS Game 5 home run (19 wWPA)
Crede was pure clutch vs. the Anaheim Angels, with three different hits in the American League Championship Series making this top 10 list, including two in the Game 5 clincher, in successive innings. This was his first of Game 5, a game-tying solo home run leading off the seventh inning. It was a rude greeting for Kelvim Escobar, who you might recall was the pitcher who kept the White Sox alive in Game 2 by walking off the field after striking out A.J. Pierzynski on a ball in the dirt.
9. Paul Konerkos ALDS Game 3 homer (22 wWPA)
Orlando Hernandezs perfect relief effort in the sixth inning, famously depicted in the monument at Champions Plaza outside of U.S. Cellular Field, wouldnt have been possible without Konerkos clout in the top of the inning. After a Jermaine Dye leadoff walk, Konerko took a 1-1 floater from Boston Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield deep, pushing the White Sox to a 4-2 lead they would not relinquish (Incidentally, while no one batter Hernandez retired in the bottom of the inning individually qualified for the top 10, the veterans perfect sixth increased Chicagos chances of winning Game 3 by 35, which would nearly top this list; when Damaso Marte exited the sixth with the sacks packed and none out, the White Sox had a 33 chance of winning the game, but after Hernandez extinguished the fire, Chicagos chances had been raised to 68).
8. Dyes World Series Game 4 single (24 wWPA)
This hit alone, given the relative lack of offense or a dominating pitching effort beyond Freddy Garcias Game 4 work, earned Dye World Series MVP honors. The sole run of the title clincher for the White Sox was achieved in true Ozzieball fashion, as Willie Harris pinch-hit for Garcia in the eighth and slapped a single to left, Scott Podsednik bunted Harris to second, Carl Everett pulled a grounder that advanced Harris to third and Dye dinked a 1-0 pitch from Brad Lidge that turned into a seeing-eye single up the middle and the final offensive highlight for Chicago on the season.
7. Credes ALCS Game 5 single (25 wWPA)
Crede deserved to win the ALCS MVP based on Game 5 alone. After tying the game with a solo shot in the seventh (No. 10), Crede battled Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez and tapped a 3-2, two-out single up the middle to put the White Sox up, 4-3, a lead they would not relinquish.
6. Pierzynskis World Series Game 3 double (27 wWPA)
While the feisty White Sox catcher is better known for stealing first base on a ninth-inning, Game 2 dropped third strike that changed the course of the ALCS, that play increased Chicagos chance of a Game 2 win just 3. It was Pierzynskis two-out, two-run double in the top of the fifth to put the White Sox up, 5-4, that was his most decisive play of the postseason. The Houston Astros would rally to tie the game, but Pierzynskis hit capped a five-run fifth that rallied the White Sox back from a 4-0 deficit.
5. Tadahito Iguchis ALDS Game 2 round-tripper (37 wWPA)
This was another potential series-saving hit. Iguchi slapped a David Wells curveball for a two-out, three-run homer to left that gave the White Sox a 5-4 lead. Two batters earlier, Juan Uribe tapped a potential double-play grounder to Red Sox second baseman Tony Graffanino, but the ex-South Sider let the ball squirt through his legs, extending the inning. Chicagos lead would hold up for four more innings, two of them hurled by rookie Bobby Jenks.
4. Joe Credes ALCS Game 2 double (39 wWPA)
Because the plays came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Pierzynskis advance to first on a dropped third strike merely upped the White Soxs chances of winning Game 2 by 3, pinch-runner Pablo Ozunas steal of second by 4. With just one more out in the inning, the White Sox still had just a 61 chance of winning the game as Crede stepped into the box vs. Escobar. The third sackers double into the left-field corner, on an 0-2 count to boot, sent the series to the West Coast knotted at 1.
3. Geoff Blums World Series Game 3 home run (41 wWPA)
Ahead in the count, 2-0, against rookie righty Ezequiel Astacio, Blum carved a permanent place in White Sox lore with a two-out, pinch-hit 14th-inning liner over the right-field fence that gave the White Sox a 6-5 lead and would put the Pale Hose on the brink of their first title in 88 years (Conspiracy theorists, take note: Joe West was the left-field umpire in Game 3, while Angel Hernandez was at third base).
2. Podsedniks World Series Game 2 blast (41 wWPA)Scotty Pods gets the nod at No. 2 because his dinger actually won a World Series game for the White Sox. When Uribe flied out to center to start the bottom of the ninth, Chicagos chances of winning Game 2 fell to just 59, dangerously close to even odds. But with just one out in the bottom of the ninth and Lidge struggling with his intensity, Podsednik drove a 2-1 offering out to right-center, surprising everyone in the ballpark; the speedy leadoff hitter hadnt had a home run in the entire 2005 regular season. The seat that Scotty Pods sneak-bomb landed on is colored its original blue to this day.
1. Konerkos World Series Game 2 grand slam (58 wWPA)
After Uribe doubled, Iguchi walked and Dye pantomimed his way to first on a hit by pitch, the White Sox first baseman stepped up to the plate again with a chance to be a hero. The game was in the bottom of the seventh, so even with the bases juiced there were just seven outs left in Chicagos holster and the Sox had just a 28 of coming back to win the game. That likelihood jumped to 86 after Konerko stole back momentum with a first-pitch grand slam off of Chad Qualls, turning a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 White Sox lead and keeping the left-field seat where PKs blast landed permanently blue as well. Houston would tie the game on Jose Vizcainos two-out, two-run single off Jenks in the ninth, but as we all know now, that base tap was a mere setup for Podsedniks heroics.
Honorable Mentions: Konerkos first-inning, full-count, three-run homer off Ervin Santana in Game 4 of the ALCS (17 wWPA); Pierzynskis first-inning, three-run homer off Matt Clement in Game 1 of the ALDS (16); Neal Cotts' strikeout of Mike Lamb with one out and runners at the corners in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the World Series (16); and Jenks' strikeout of Jeff Bagwell with two outs and runners on second and third in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the World Series (15).
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.