CHICAGO -- There was a moment in the third inning here yesterday afternoon when the people in the stands, who hadn't witnessed a home playoff win by the Chicago White Sox in 46 years, chanted and applauded and demanded that Paul Konerko wave back.
So Konerko climbed the stairs, turned and acknowledged their recognition of his home run, their wait and their relief.
Several innings later, Konerko said he leaned toward a teammate and confessed: "I felt real good about that curtain call. It felt great. Then, seven curtain calls later, it wasn't so special. They were handing them out all day."
The face of these White Sox, if not their mouth, Konerko laughed at what was a glorious afternoon for a franchise that hadn't seen many lately. The White Sox beat the Boston Red Sox, 14-2, at U.S. Cellular Field in the first game of a best-of-five American League Division Series. Game 2 is here tonight.
White Sox starter Jose Contreras allowed two runs in 7 2/3 innings for his ninth win in nine starts since mid-August, and he was backed by five home runs, two by his catcher, A.J. Pierzynski.
"Yeah," Konerko said, "it was a great day."
Eighty-eight years after their last World Series title, the White Sox inched toward a shot at another. Few could appreciate that as much as the Red Sox, who won for the first time in 86 years last season but were unable to throw a fastball past a White Sox hitter yesterday.
The Red Sox won their final eight games of the last postseason, starting three games down to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. It's a lot to ask of momentum, almost a year later, which became apparent a couple dozen pitches into Matt Clement's third career postseason start.
The White Sox scored five runs in the first inning, the last three on Pierzynski's opposite-field home run, and the Red Sox were never again closer than four runs.
By the final curtain call, the White Sox had racked up 11 hits, walked three times and were hit by three pitches. They left their first runners on base in their last at-bat, during the eighth inning. Even Scott Podsednik, the White Sox leadoff hitter who hadn't homered in more than a year, hit a home run. Pierzynski drove in four runs and Podsednik and Juan Uribe each drove in three.
"I have no excuses," Clement said. "I was bad. They took advantage of a guy who was struggling."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who had talked for two days about his rested pitching staff, appeared intent on keeping it that way. Clement, who struck out none of the 18 batters he faced, allowed seven hits and hit two batters and still was allowed to pitch into the fourth inning. Uribe hit the last pitch Clement threw - an 0-2 breaking ball - for a home run, giving the White Sox an 8-2 lead.
Francona used three relievers anyway, but he held back closer Mike Timlin and rookie Jonathan Papelbon, in case they are needed to pitch behind David Wells tonight.
"We wanted to get him further in the game," Francona said, adding later, "It fell apart in a hurry."
Said Clement: "It was no fun, especially as much as this team has battled, to put us in a hole. But it's only one game, and this team is pretty resilient. Hopefully that will be the case."
Clement's demise left a lot of stress-free innings for Contreras, who had six strikeouts, walked none and held the first four hitters in the Red Sox order - Johnny Damon, Edgar Renteria, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez - to three hits and no RBIs in 16 at-bats.
"Our pitching needs to hold them down," Ortiz said. "If we don't get that, we're going to be toast. Playoff game, to give up 14 runs, it's not happening."
Contreras, the former Yankee who defected from Cuba three years ago, had an 11.67 ERA in seven previous appearances against the Red Sox. He won his only start against them during the regular season, however, and yesterday allowed very few good swings, mainly because of his varying arm angles and off-speed pitches.
"We saw a much more mature pitcher," Francona said. "I know the run he's been on, and today we found out why."
They'll all start over today, the left-handed Wells against White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle, but there was still much to be held from yesterday. After all, it's not every day you win a playoff game in your own ballpark. Not on this side of this city.
Notes -- Injured White Sox star Frank Thomas threw out the first pitch and got a rousing ovation. ... The White Sox got their first playoff victory at U.S. Cellular Field, which opened as new Comiskey Park in 1991. They lost three games at home to Toronto in the 1993 ALCS and two to Seattle in the 2000 AL Division Series. It was their first home playoff win since Game 1 of the 1959 World Series. ... The Red Sox are in the playoffs as the AL wild card for the third straight year. They've qualified as a wild card five times overall. ... Pierzynski has four career postseason homers.
Tim Brown writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Chicago Tribune and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
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Astros@Braves, 4:09 p.m., ESPN; Pettitte (17-9, 2.39) vs. Hudson (14-9, 3.52)
Red Sox@White Sox, 7:09 p.m., ESPN; Wells (15-7, 4.45) vs. Buehrle (16-8, 3.12)
Yankees@Angels, 10:09 p.m., ESPN; Wang (8-5, 4.02) vs. Lackey (14-5, 3.44)