Sox go deep into night

Blum's 2-out homer in 14th puts Astros in 3-0 Series hole

White Sox 7, Astros 5

World Series


HOUSTON -- For 44 seasons, baseball fans here have waited for this moment.

Their beloved Astros finally were in a World Series, and Houstonians could finally scream at every pitch in the comfort of their eardrum-busting sound chamber known as Minute Maid Park.

Earlier yesterday, though, the Astros learned that Major League Baseball had turned down their request to close the park's retractable roof, making the thunderous roar - and the undeniable home-field advantage that goes with it - a little less effective.

Ultimately, Houston lost the battle and then the interminable war, as former Astro Geoff Blum homered against Ezequiel Astacio in the top of the 14th to break the tie and the White Sox added an RBI walk for a 7-5 victory.

In terms of time, it was the longest in the history of the World Series (5 hours, 41 minutes) and tied for the longest, innings-wise with Game 2 between Boston and Brooklyn in 1916. The White Sox are now up 3-0 in the Series, moving one win away from capturing their first world championship since 1917. No team has ever lost a World Series after going up 3-0.

After Blum homered with two outs, Astacio allowed two more hits and two walks - the last to Scott Podsednik to drive in the insurance run. Mark Buehrle, who started Sunday's game, entered with two outs and two runners on in the bottom of the 14th and induced a popout for the win.

The Astros' best chance to break the long tie was in the ninth. They loaded the bases on walks by Chicago's Orlando Hernandez, who hadn't pitched since Oct. 7. But Hernandez struck out Morgan Ensberg to keep Chicago alive.

An inning before, Houston pushed the game toward extra innings when Jason Lane came to the plate with two outs and two runners on. He sliced a double down the left-field line to tie the game at 5, but Houston stranded runners at second and third when Chicago's Dustin Hermanson struck out Brad Ausmus.

The comeback never came for the Astros and their raucous crowd of 42,848.

One of the best signs for the Astros came in the ninth with the appearance of Houston closer Brad Lidge, who had allowed game-winning homers in his previous two postseason outings. With a runner on base, Lidge struck out Aaron Rowand to end the inning and pitched a perfect 10th for further redemption.

The long night started so smoothly for the home team. The Astros scored in three of the first four innings against Jon Garland to place a seemingly safe, 4-0 lead into the right hand of Roy Oswalt, the MVP of the National League Championship Series.

In three previous playoff starts, Oswalt was 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA. Although not as dominant as in past starts, two key double plays helped him carry a shutout into the fifth.

And then everything unraveled for Houston.

Joe Crede led off the inning with a homer to right - his fourth of the postseason - to ruin the shutout. Juan Uribe followed with a single and then, after Garland struck out, Chicago managed three straight base hits, including RBIs by Tadahito Iguchi and Jermaine Dye.

With Chicago trailing 4-3 and two outs, A.J. Pierzynski doubled to deep center to score two and give the White Sox a 5-4 lead.

It could have been much worse.

Oswalt walked Rowand, and then hit Crede with a 1-2 pitch to load the bases. Taking exception to being plunked after homering earlier in the inning, Crede walked up the first base line jawing at Oswalt. Houston catcher Brad Ausmus screamed back at Crede and both benches joined in the war of words, with Chicago's Carl Everett hanging on the dugout railing yelling while Houston manager Phil Garner screamed and pointed his finger toward Chicago's bench.

No one left the dugouts, no warnings were issued and Oswalt got Uribe to fly out to end the inning - one in which Chicago sent 11 batters to the plate while reminding the Astros that they know how to score.

How unexpected was a five-run inning against Oswalt? It's happened just once this season. In fact, the right-hander had allowed five runs or more in an entire game only three times in 2005.

Oswalt pitched another full inning, and then left in the seventh after giving up his uncharacteristic fifth walk.

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