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A Play in Four Acts (And Timmy and Buck Were Annoying in All Four)
2005-10-26 15:12
by Mike Carminati

Maybe I Shoulda Said DiMaggio?!?

For a game that started with a roof controversy, there were plenty more interesting moments. Actually, there were four mini-games in one.

First, the Astros dominated with about a run per inning until the forth. Then, the Sox had the monster-sized inning getting a 5-4 lead. Somehow they still left the bases loaded in the fifth. Next was Houston's attempt to tie up the game. And finally, we had the six innings in which it seemed that no one was ever going to score again.

I had to turn the game off at a quarter to two and half expected it still to be going on when I woke up this morning. I probably expected that more than a Geoff Blum home run to win it, but more on Blum later.

The Sox started rusty and the Astros seemed happy to be home. It seemed like this would be one of those sop wins for Houston, one in which a team en route to a victory, usually four games to one, lets up a bit and the other coasts to victory.

Act I in which Guillen Gets His Oats

The Astros started strong, scoring in the first. But they could have gotten more. After Craig B-G-O doubled to the gap on a 3-1 pitch, the great Phil Garner had Willy Taveras bunting. Yes, in the first inning with the runner already in scoring position. Taveras popped out on Garland's first offering.

I know that the Fox crew loves Taveras and his had some big hits in the playoffs. But if his own manager doesn't trust him to swing the bat with none out and a runner in scoring position to start the game, what the frig is he doing in there. As I said to my friend Mike, he's a dime a dozen Omar Moreno derivative, which is fine if he's batting eighth, but then he'd have to dislodge that lineup drag Brad Ausmus.

Anyway, after the pop out, Berkman, who's doing his best Carlos Beltran impersonation, singled Biggio home. The Sox were lucky to double up Ensberg, who's been horrific at the plate for long stretches of the postseason, to end the inning.

After a stalled Sox rally in the next half inning, the Astros seemed to cruise. In the top of the second Konerko again came through with a leadoff double and the renaissance of A.J. Pierzynski continued with a five-pitch walk. However, the Astros got a lucky break with a hard line out by Roward right to Adam Everett, who then doubled off the helpless Konerko.

Jon Garland looked shaky throughout the early going. But things had settled down a bit until the bottom of the third. That's when Garland's shakiness got some help from a Juan Uribe meltdown. First, he lollygagged a ball from Adam Everett into a single. The scene chewing ex-shortstop Ozzie Guillen then emoted disdain for the cameras, obviously the best way to help a young player. It was a bad play—I can't understand where Uribe and/or his mind was on the play—but c'mon Ozzie! Calling your closer with the international signal for "big and tall" is one thing, but don't show up your players.

Uribe compounded the situation by hitting Everett in the midsection after they had him picked off of first. Guillen pile-drove Joey Cora in disgust. I don't know if I have ever seen a worse pick off throw in a rundown, at least one that wasn't completely thrown away. Usually those are when a player just loses control of the ball and havoc ensues. This was as if Uribe had intended to "soak" Everett, that is, hit him with the ball to tag him out the way players did in ye olde White Stockings days of yore. It seemed like it was his intention. Maybe he forgot the rules, it happens—mostly to umps in the postseason though.

Uribe's paroxysms proved costly, the Astros collected three more singles and two more runs, one of which after there were two outs (meaning the White Sox could have been out of the inning with just one run if Uribe hadn't spassed out twice in trying to get Everett). Whatever, the Astros led 3-0.

After an "excuse me" top of the fourth for the White Sox offense, Jason Lane homered to left on an 0-1 ball. Or did he? Replays showed that the ball hit to the left of a vertical line that defined the home run boundary. Yes, this was the umpteenth time that the umps screwed up on a bad call (actually, umpteen plus one). And yes, they have extra umps specifically for outfield calls in the playoffs. But I have to admit that I could not tell with the naked eye at normal speed whether it was a homer or not. Actually, it wasn't until about the fifth replay at super slomo that anything definitive could be determined. I blame the designers of the stupid ex-Enron for putting vertical lines on the walls for making home run calls more than the umps. If an ump needs a protractor to make a call, I can't blame him for booting the call.

(I do, however, blame Jerry Layne for using a coin toss to determine how to call borderline low and outside pitches the entire game. There was a K-looking to Brad Ausmus late in the game in which two of the called strikes clearly looked like balls. Morgan Ensberg was also called for going around a clear-cut check swing, a call that would have made Jim Edmonds recuse himself from the game. Ensberg was his ever unphased self. They guy just stares off into space. I think he's the animatronic love child of Jeannie Zelasko.)

Whatever, as the Fox pundits pointed out, a bad call finally went against the White Sox. Lane should have gotten a double, and with the next three batters grounding out, one could opine that he would have been stranded there. However, the Astros wer up 4-0 and cruising, and the sop theory I proposed earlier seemed to hold sway.

Phil Garner Is a Stupid, Stupid Man

Then came the fifth. It started with a quiet home run from Joe Crede (or Creed as Chris Berman dubbed, or dumbed, him). What they hey, the Astros were still up 4-1.

Next, Uribe singled, but c'mon, the pitcher was up, a pitcher from DH league remember. Garland failed to get a bunt down on 1-0. Then swung at the next pitch, again missing. Garland eventually stuck out but it took Oswalt seven pitches to do it.

If I were Phil Garner at this point, a little light bulb would have gone off in my head, and I would have gotten my bullpen stirred. This is where Oswalt started to lose it. Remember that the Astros needed the game since no one (besides the Red Sox in the ALCS last year) ever comes back from 3-0. Add to that the uncertainty of Clemens health for game five, and the fact that the bullpen had a day off for travel prior to game three, and maybe a light bulb will go off in your head, too. As for the light bulb in Garner's head, unless he's going to be a Jack O'Lantern for Halloween, he hasn't got one.

Scott Podsednik and Tadahito Iguchi both singled, closing the score to 4-2. Then came the Dye at-bat.

Jermaine Dye started 1-2, worked two the count full, and then fouled off two more before singling in Podsednik, closing the gap to one run. Still there was no one up in the bullpen.

This was probably the AB of Dye's life and stood out sharply with the rest of his game. For example, in the top of the ninth with the run scored, he worked a full count and then grounded out at a ball that was around his eyes. That coupled with the Garland at-bat should have signaled something to Garner or at least to his moustache.

Oswalt was able to get Konerko to fly out on an 0-1 pitch. But then the new Piazza, A.J. Pierzynski, was able to double out to the little playground in center, scoring two and taking the lead for the White Sox, 5-4.

And if memory serves (I'll check the video later), the bullpen still was silent. It wasn't until Aaron Rowand walked on six pitches that finally a Houston reliever started to throw. Oswalt faced Crede for the second time in the inning and hit him with a 1-2 pitch. Both benches went a bit nutty over the matter (personally, I blame the roof), and Crede was a bit miffed. Of course, Ozzie Guillen emoted appropriately. But Phil Garner should have been the one man that knew that Oswalt wasn't throwing at Crede. He wasn't capable of hitting the broadside of a barn let alone the broad side of Crede. Oswalt stayed in the game, however. Keep in mind that the bases were just loaded and Oswalt had walked and then hit the last two batters.

Luckily, Oswalt got Uribe to end the inning. But it wasn't until the White Sox scored five and took the lead. Oswalt threw 46 pitches in the inning.

Ozzie Guillen, One Game Closer to his Announced Retirement, Has His Relievers Spooneybarging In and Out

After that big inning both offenses took a siesta—must have been the vapors from the sultry Houston night with the roof open. With two out in the bottom of the eighth and reliever Cliff Politte cruising, Ozzie Guillen decided he need to gesticulate more for the TV cameras. So after a six-pitch walk to Ensberg, he pulled Politte in favor of Neal Cotts. After Cotts fell instantly behind Mike Lamb, 3-0, and then walked him on five pitches, Guillen, feeling unfulfilled by the lefty signal he used to introduce Cotts, he gestured for the small, thin guy, Dustin Hermanson. I know Hermanson had a good year (2.04 ERA) and even closed for a bit, but based on a decade of Hermansonian sucking, I'm no handing him the ball with any game above little league on the line. But then again, he had a new gesture show off on TV, so…

After getting ahead of Jason Lane, he of the welfare homer earlier in the game, Hermanson served up a double, tying the score and putting runners at second and third. Then came the gift Ausmus strikeout looking that I referred to before, thereby ending the inning.

Not to be outdone by Guillen, Garner had to demonstrate to the world that he could really, really complete a double-switch while Sponneybarging through three relievers in the top of the ninth. Lest you think I will let the eminent Garner off the hook in the sections not calling him stupid, stupid in the title, what the frig is he thinking with some of his late moves?

First, he wasted a body in Eric Bruntlett, one that could be used later in the marathon, by putting him in as the trailing runner in the eighth, pinch-hitting for Mike Lamb. He kept Bruntlett, a shortstop by trade, in the game as his left fielder and he shifted Berkman to first to replace Lamb in the field.

He pulled Bruntlett two plays later so that he could double-switch Chris Burke into left and Brad Lidge onto the mound. The good news was that Lidge did not given a game-losing home run for once. Joe Buck blamed it on his wearing a USC sweatshirt for Morgan Ensberg—really, you just can't get coverage like that anywhere else.

Not to be remise, I must mention that I have no idea what Garner feels a bunt is for. He bunted with the second batter in the game. Trailing 5-4 and Garland walking leadoff hitter Brad Ausmus on five pitches, Garner decided to let Adam Everett bunt with the pitcher's spot due up. They pinch-hit with Jeff Bagwell, but he popped, and Biggio struck out to end the inning.

OK, I'm not crazy about bunting especially when it's helping out a pitcher who might be tiring, but I can understand doing it for the one run late in a ballgame. However, I do not understand why didn't then use it in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied and the winning run at third.

Guillen had brought in El Duque Hernandez, who looked like he wasn't healthy enough to be in the postseason roster. He was crazy wild. After walking Burke on four pitches, none of which looked close, he threw the ball away on a pickoff throw sending Burke to second, and then ignored him into stealing third.

Amid all that, he also walked Biggio on four pitches. The Astros had runners at the corners with one out. The speedy Taveras was up. Garner bunted with him in the first (unsuccessfully), and Timmy Mac seemed to think the small ball play was to bunt the run home. I'm not a big bunt guy in any situation, but if you think that Taveras is such a good bunter, that seemed the place to do it.

Garner demurred. Taveras struck out. The game went into extra innings (with the help of the Ensberg check swing called for a strike that I referred to earlier).

In Blum

The two teams then settled in for a siege that made Vicksburg seem thrilling. Other than Guillen for some reason keeping El Duque in the game to walk the leadoff batter on four pitches in the tenth, not much transpired. Both teams got men as far as second but then seemed content with that honor and went feebly to end the inning.

The same seemed to hold true in the fourteenth. After a Dye single, Konerko grounded into a double play. Blum who came in as the second baseman a half-inning earlier was up with two out. He then homered on a 2-0 pitch. It seemed that Blum was brought in just so that Guillen could close the gap in double-switches (3-2), but Garner got the last laugh pulled off one more before the Astros went down in flames.

The White Sox scored another run on a bases-full walk to Chris Widger of all people and left the bases full as Scott Podsednik struck out in his eighth at-bat of the game.

Blum could become just the seventh man to have as many home runs as at-bats in a postseason series. Here are the rest:

Kirk GibsonLos Angeles Dodgers1988WS11
Jim LeyritzNew York Yankees1999WS11
Jim MasonNew York Yankees1976WS11
Greg MyersSan Diego Padres1998NLCS11
George ShubaBrooklyn Dodgers1953WS11
Tom WilsonLos Angeles Dodgers2004NLDS11

Of course he does have two ABs for the playoffs, so he would crack the top spots for home runs per at-bats in a postseason:

Jim MasonNew York Yankees197611100.00%
Tom WilsonLos Angeles Dodgers200411100.00%
George ShubaBrooklyn Dodgers195311100.00%
Chuck EssegianLos Angeles Dodgers19593266.67%
Harry SpilmanSan Francisco Giants19872150.00%
Turner WardArizona Diamondbacks19992150.00%
Jose SantiagoBoston Red Sox19672150.00%
Rosy RyanNew York Giants19242150.00%
Daryle WardHouston Astros20012150.00%
Lou GehrigNew York Yankees192811436.36%
Rondell WhiteNew York Yankees20023133.33%
Jim LeyritzNew York Yankees19993133.33%
Dusty RhodesNew York Giants19546233.33%
Bill BatheSan Francisco Giants19893133.33%
Juan GonzalezTexas Rangers199616531.25%
Ken CaminitiSan Diego Padres199610330.00%

And then there's the ever popular career home runs per at-bats in the postseason:

PlayerTo tABTot HRRatio
Tom Wilson11100.00%
Jim Mason11100.00%
Chuck Essegian3266.67%
Turner Ward2150.00%
Jose Santiago2150.00%
Bill Bathe3133.33%
Rondell White3133.33%
Dusty Rhodes6233.33%
Rosy Ryan4125.00%
Mark Brouhard4125.00%
Mike Lamb8225.00%
Chuck Carr4125.00%
Daryle Ward9222.22%
Rod Barajas9222.22%
Donn Clendenon14321.43%
Now, the Houston death watch begins in earnest. You'll hear about the Red Sox's ALCS comeback last year, but realistically if the Astros can avoid a sweep it's a moral victory. It's kind of a shame given that the White Sox have won by a total of four runs in three games. If they again edge Houston by one run tonight, they'll match the closest sweep in playoff history and establish the closest sweep in a seven-game series:
1996NLDS130Atlanta Braves10Los Angeles Dodgers55
1996NLDS230St. Louis Cardinals15San Diego Padres105
1950WS40New York Yankees11Philadelphia Phillies56
1970NLCS30Cincinnati Reds9Pittsburgh Pirates36
1997NLDS130Florida Marlins15San Francisco Giants96
1922WS40New York Giants18New York Yankees117
2000ALDS230Seattle Mariners14Chicago White Sox77
1963WS40Los Angeles Dodgers12New York Yankees48
1971ALCS30Baltimore Orioles15Oakland Athletics78
1976NLCS30Cincinnati Reds19Philadelphia Phillies118
1980ALCS30Kansas City Royals14New York Yankees68
1981AWDIV30Oakland Athletics10Kansas City Royals28
1998ALDS230New York Yankees9Texas Rangers18
2001NLDS130Atlanta Braves14Houston Astros68

I'm left wondering which is more annoying, that Astro Killer Bee buzz sound affect or the Angels' rally monkey. I guess neither tops the sideshow the Red Sox "idiots" had going last season. Next year's champ is going to need a human sacrifice in the seventh-inning stretch to remain edgy.

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