By TRACY RINGOLSBY
Scripps Howard News Service
October 24, 2005
The only thing that matters to them is wins.
Chalk up another.
Scott Podsednik provided the final blow in the White Sox 7-6 victory over Houston in Game 2 of the World Series at U.S. Cellular Park on Sunday night. His ninth inning home run off Astros closer Brad Lidge - the 14th game-ending homerun in World Series history - atoned for closer Bobby Jenks' failure in the top of the ninth when the Astros rallied to tie the game at 6-6, thanks in part to A.J. Pierzynski's failure to block home plate.
But more than Podesednik's sudden power - he has two home runs and two triples in the post-season after having one triple and no home runs during the regular season - the White Sox can thank a disputed call by home plate umpire Jeff Nelson for allowing them to take a 2-games-to-none lead in the best-of-seven series in the quest for the franchise's first world championship since 1917.
The Series now moves to Houston for Game 3 on Tuesday.
"Clearly everything they're doing right now is right," said Astros manager Phil Garner. "They can't do anything wrong. I thought we had turned it around when we went ahead."
But that 4-2 lead the Astros took into the seventh inning was wiped out by a Paul Konerko grand slam, his fifth post-season home run and the first post-season grand slam in White Sox history. The home run was set up when Nelson ruled that Jermaine Dye was hit by a Dan Wheeler pitch, loading the bases with two out for Konerko, who belted reliever Chad Qualls' first pitch out of the park.
"It's the second best feeling I've had all week," said Konerko, who became a father on Tuesday. "You sense that this team is so selfless."
It's been fortunate, too.
It was in the fifth inning of Game 2 of the ALDS against Boston that Red Sox second baseman Tony Graffanino had a ground ball go between his legs. Tadahito Iguchi followed with the three-run home run that turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 victory.
And it was with two out in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the ALCS against the Angels that umpire Doug Eddings ruled that Angels catcher Josh Paul did not cleanly catch a swinging third strike, allowing Pierzynski to reach first. He scored on Paul Crede's ensuing double for a 2-1 White Sox victory.
This time, Wheeler set the stage for the problems. Taking over from Andy Pettitte to start the seventh with a 4-2 lead, he gave up a one-out double to Juan Uribe. After striking out Scott Podsednik, Wheeler walked Iguchi. Then he ran the count to 3-2 before coming up and in with a pitch to Dye that replays showed went off the upper half of Dye's bat.
Even though Dye never showed any pain from pitch on a cold, damp night, Nelson ruled he had been hit by the pitch, and paid no attention to the mild protest from Astros manager Phil Garner.
Garner then brought in Qualls, and on the first pitch he threw, Konerko delivered the 18th grand slam in World Series history.
The White Sox, having ended a 46-year World Series drought, became the 50th team in World Series history to take a 2-0 lead. Thirty-eight of the previous 49 have gone on to win a World Championship.
"That's the way we play," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "We keep fighting, making big pitches. When somebody fails, somebody picks him up."
The Astros have been able to overcome obstacles this year, too, at least until they ran into the White Sox. They did, after all, rally from a 15-30 start to the season to become the first team since 1914 to advance to the World Series despite falling 15 games below .500. They then showed a resiliency when they ignored Lidge giving up a three-run, ninth-inning home run in Game 5 of the NLCS, by bouncing back to beat St. Louis in Game 6 at Busch Stadium, and advance to the World Series for the first time in the history of the 44-year-old franchise.
During that run to the Series the Astros made a point of making the plays that needed to be made. Not so on Sunday, where second baseman Craig Biggio dropped Juan Uribe's one-out pop up in the bottom of the second inning, allowing the White Sox second run of the inning to score.
"We had three balls that should have been caught," Garner said of the two-run White Sox second. "Instead of outs we had two runs on the board. If we make those plays, which we are capable of doing, it might take them out of the game, but did didn't."
Tracy Ringolsby covers baseball for the Rocky Mountain News at www.rockymountainnews.com
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service
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