Sox step up, walk off

Podsednik's HR in ninth gives Chicago 2-0 lead

White Sox 7, Astros 6

World Series / Game 2

October 24, 2005|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

Chicago -- This time, the Chicago White Sox needed more than just a controversial umpiring call to win a Game 2.

They needed speedy slap hitter Scott Podsednik to smack an uncharacteristic game-winning homer to right-center in the bottom of the ninth to give the White Sox a 7-6 victory and a 2-0 World Series lead over the Astros as both teams head for Houston.

It was just the 14th walk-off home run in World Series history and it sent the rain-soaked crowd of 41,432 into a delirium at U.S. Cellular Field after more than three hours of seesaw baseball.

Podsednik, who homered in the first game of this postseason against the Boston Red Sox, didn't go deep in 507 regular-season at-bats and had just 22 homers in his career before sealing his place in October lore.

"I don't think anyone in the ballpark was thinking about me hitting the ball out of the ballpark," Podsednik said.

Houston closer Brad Lidge, who also served up Albert Pujols' game-winning blast in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, tried to sneak a 2-1 fastball past Podsednik. Instead, he was tagged with a second heartbreaking loss in a week.

Lidge dropped his head and walked off the field as the White Sox mobbed Podsednik at home plate.

"I'll say the next time we have the same situation ... he'll be in the ballgame," said Astros manager Phil Garner about Lidge. "He's my closer. He's our go-to guy. He's going to be fine. He'll do just fine."

Garner also believes his team will be fine. The Astros came back to finish off Pujols and the Cardinals in the NLCS. And he thinks the same can happen in this World Series, even down 2-0.

"This is not the best situation, but it is the one we're in and we'll make do," Garner said. "We'll bounce back. We'll make a series out of this."

In a two-inning span the momentum switched sides three times, with the goat title being passed from plate umpire Jeff Nelson to Astros reliever Chad Qualls to Chicago closer Bobby Jenks and finally to Lidge.

"That's the way we play all year, we keep fighting, making a big pitch," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. "When somebody fails, somebody picks them up."

Down to their last out in the ninth, the Astros bounced back from what looked like another deflating and controversial White Sox comeback.

Jenks, 24, a hero Saturday with a perfect, four-out save, blew a two-run lead in the ninth with a wobbly performance last night.

He allowed a walk and a single and picked up two outs before pinch hitter Jose Vizcaino slapped a single to left to score Jeff Bagwell and Chris Burke, whose left hand slipped across home plate moments before the tag from catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

Reliever Neal Cotts, the eventual winner, recorded the final out, and the White Sox headed into the dugout with a 6-6 tie instead of an uplifting victory.

"When we came in after it was tied no one was down, I think the overall kind of theme in the dugout was everybody loves Bobby," said Paul Konerko, whose seventh-inning grand slam gave the White Sox a 6-4 lead. "We're not going to let him go home feeling bad about this."

Up to Vizcaino's hit, the Astros were reeling from a controversial seventh inning.

With runners on first and second and two outs and Chicago trailing by two runs, Astros reliever Dan Wheeler threw a high-and-tight, full-count fastball to White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye.

Dye started to swing and attempted to pull back, as the ball appeared to hit the barrel of his bat for a foul ball.

But Nelson ruled that the pitch hit Dye, who jogged to first to load the bases.

Garner argued futilely and then changed pitchers, bringing in Qualls to face Konerko.

"I thought the ball hit the bat," Garner said. "And I don't know what would have happened after that but clearly I thought the ball hit the bat."

On Qualls' first pitch, Konerko pounded a fastball 383 feet for the momentum-altering grand slam.

It was a scene reminiscent of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, when home plate umpire Doug Eddings ruled that Los Angeles Angels catcher Josh Paul had dropped a third strike in the ninth inning. The batter, Pierzynski, made it safely to first to keep a 1-1 game alive and Chicago's Joe Crede followed with a game-winning double.

This Game 2 wasn't as crisp.

Neither Houston starter Andy Pettitte (two runs, six innings) nor Chicago's Mark Buehrle (four runs, seven innings) was at his best on the chilly, rain-soaked evening.

The difference between the two was that Buehrle cracked ever so slightly in the immense pressure cooker while the October-tested Pettitte wiggled out of his messes.

Pettitte left a 4-2 game after the sixth, putting him in a position to become the all-time leader in postseason victories with 15.

Konerko, Chicago's most feared slugger, made sure that didn't happen with his big blast in the seventh.

And then Podsednik finished it off in the ninth. An unusual hero ending an unbelievable game.

"This one came at a good time," Podsednik said. "I recall standing out in left field after Paul did what he did, thinking, `Man, what does that man feel like right now?' So to go out and hit one out of the ballpark for a game-winner is pretty indescribable."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

GAME 2

AT A GLANCE

PITCHING

Winner : Neal Cotts

Loser: Brad Lidge

KEY MOMENT

After a disputed umpiring call, Paul Konerko hits a seventh-inning grand slam on Astros reliever Chad Qualls' first pitch.

POWER SURGE

Scott Podsednik, whose walk-off home run gave the White Sox a 2-0 Series lead, didn't hit a home run during the regular season. He hit his first of 2005 in the division Series opener against the Red Sox.

GAME 3

White Sox (John Garland) @ Astros (Roy Oswalt), 8:38 p.m. tomorrow, chs. 45, 5, 1090 AM.

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