In what seems ready-labeled for instant classic, the White Sox took game two, 7-6, over the Astros on a one-out walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth by Scott Podsednik. Oddities, twists, and controversial plays abounded. There were two lead changes in the ninth alone, both coming off the respective teams' closers.
We should have known by the way the games started. As the game was set to start, the grounds crew brought out the tarp (for the second time) but didn't cover the field with it. They rolled it back up, and a game that seemed to be played in weather that ranged from a steady mist to a downpour was underway.
The in-game oddity started in the bottom of the second, when, with one out and trailing Houston 1-0, Chicago's Aaron Rowand hit a ball to third that took a bad hop and ended up with a single. Next up was A.J. Pierzynski, who hit a ball of the middle of the wall in left that was misplayed by both the baserunner Rowand and the left fielder Chris Burke. Burke, playing out of his natural position, went back to the wall about ten to fifteen feet to the right of where the ball landed. Then he changed course perpendicularly and missed the ball by a good yard. He even timed his jump wrong and the ball was not only to the left of but below his glove.
Meanwhile, Rowand saw the fly ball and automatically ran to first though he was careful not to be passed by the batter. As Tim McCarver rightfully pointed out, with Burke at the fence early, there's no way Rowand should be on first. It's very unlikely he will tag up on the play. Rowand ended up at second instead of third, though with the ensuing wackiness, it mattered little. Though it was cute that Fox picked up Rowand asking manager Ozzie Guillen if he did the right thing on the play, and Guillen agreed with his running.
Joe Crede followed with a bloop single down the right field line, scoring Rowand and moving Pierzynski to third. The score was 1-1.
Next, Juan Uribe hit a fly to shallow right field that bounced off the tips of the fingers on second baseman Craig Biggio's glove. Pierzynski, sharply contrasting the running of Rowand, went half way down the line realizing that he could score if the ball droppedwhich he didor return to third if it was caught since there was no real chance to tag up and score. Crede, the runner at first, through no fault of his own, was forced at second. The score was now 2-1, Chicago leading.
Keep in mind that this is not covered by the infield fly rule by its definition in the rulebook: "An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out." There were runners at first and third. Also, the ump may not consider the play "ordinary effort" for an infielder. Oddly, the play was not an error since the got the runner at second.
The next odd play came in the bottom of the fifth. With the Astros leading 4-2, Juan Uribe lead off with a double. Oddly, down two runs in the fifth with none out, the Sox had Podsednik show bunt on the next pitch. After a Podsednik flyout, on a full count Tadahito Iguchi hit a soft one-hop ground ball back to the pitcher. Uribe broke for third and was tagged out at second after just one throw and very little effort on his part. Andy Pettitte played it perfectly runner directly at Uribe. Uribe thought for a second about third, but headed back to second. He then dove into the Adam Everett tag. Meanwhile, Iguchi was stuck at first. If he goes to third or at least sustains the rundown maybe he can get the trailing runner to second. Iguchi was picked off on the next throw from Andy Pettitte, whose pickoff move was always called a balk on Steve Carlton.
Next, in the bottom of the seventh with Astros still leading by two and Dan Wheeler pitching for Houston, the Sox had men at first and second and two out. On a full count to Jermain Dye, the next pitch looked like an inside pitch that hit off Dye's bat, but the homeplate umpire Jeff Nelson said some part of Dye was hit by the ball and awarded him first, loading the bases. Here again the umps got a play wrong that was apparent as the play transpired to the naked eye at regular speed. Every replay backed up the miscall. Even Dye looked surprised by the call.
Of course, the next batter, Paul Konerko, hit a grand slam (right after a commercial break with the ever-annoying Grand Slam Quiz from State Farm) on the first pitch after a pitching change to put the Sox up, 6-4. Chad Qualls really grooved one in but Konerko did clobber the ball. It was the eighteenth grand slam in World Series history (according to FoxI'll check who they were on the off day). Of course, Phil Garner, pedestrian manager he, would never consider bringing in closer Brad Lidge to get him out of trouble with two and a third left in the game. Then again Lidge would have his own problems later.
The game settled down after that but the best was still yet to come. Rookie closer Bobby Jenks came in to pitch in the top of the ninth with a two-run lead. Jeff Bagwell led off with a line-drive single. After getting Jason Lane to strikeout, Jenks was pinched by Nelson on at least two ball calls and Chris Burke walked on four pitches.
Again, Garner had some highly questionable calls. Brad Ausmus grounded out moving the runners to second and third. I would have considered pinch-hitting for the weak-hitting catcher, but he has had a hot bat of late. Next, Garner went to a pinch-hitter for his shortstop. He had the hot-hitting Mike Lamb and Orlando Palmeiro on the bench, but chose weak-hitting middle infielder Jose Vizcaino, a dubious choice at best. Vizcaino hit a bloop single to left. The lead runner scored easily, but Burke was just rounding third as the ball got to the left fielder Podsednik. A good throw would have had him at the plate, but Podsenik's was too far up the line toward first. Pierzynski dove back to get the runner, but Burke slid around his tag and touched home before an eventual high tag. The score was tied, 6-6.
Vizcaino ended up at second, Jenks was lifted, and the Sox were lucky to end the inning in a tie. Houston, the goat of game five of the NLCS, was brought in to keep the game tied in the bottom of the ninth. With one out Podsednik hit a 2-1 straight-as-an-arrow fastball over the wall in right-center. The new Comiskey erupted as the Sox won.
Podsednik now has two home runs in the postseason, both game winners, though he hit none in the regular season. As I already documented he is just one of 23 players to homer in the playoffs after failing to do so in the regular season. He is the first to hit two in the postseason, however.
The Sox are on a high, but if you consider that a split would have taken away their home field advantage and that either game could very easily have gone either way, the Sox can't get cocky. Of course, game three is big, but aren't they all in the World Series?