Whitewash

Sox finish sweep, win first crown since 1917

White Sox 1, Astros 0

World Series: Game 4

October 27, 2005|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

HOUSTON -- Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams walked into the center of the visiting locker room at Minute Maid Park last night carrying the World Series trophy high above his head.

Williams could have savored a private moment with a piece of hardware that hadn't been held by Windy City hands since 1917.

A former White Sox player, Williams was the one who brought together this team of no-names and castoffs that won, 1-0, last night to sweep the Houston Astros in the 2005 World Series.

But Williams couldn't bear the solitude. He pressed right into a circle of swirling champagne and soaking athletes and yelled, "Here it is, boys!"

With that, this never-respected Team B from Chicago jumped in unison while Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" screeched in the background and the World Series trophy bounced unsteadily toward the ceiling.

"Our guys had a lot of things to prove," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "When you have a lot of guys who like each other, you can do a lot of damage."

The Astros, their heralded pitching staff and swarm of Killer B hitters can attest to that. They had to sit and watch as a new champion was crowned.

With the stars shining through the roof at Minute Maid Park and the rowdy crowd of 42,936 suddenly stunned, the starless White Sox hooted and hollered at the pitcher's mound after shortstop Juan Uribe charged a slow grounder and threw out pinch hitter Orlando Palmeiro for the game-ender.

That play was set up by Uribe's awesome catch one batter earlier, when he reached two rows deep along the left-field stands to grab the ninth inning's second out.

Jermaine Dye, who drove in the game's only run, was named World Series Most Valuable Player. And the White Sox, who hadn't even been in a World Series since 1959, rejoiced.

"I hope they party like it is 1917," Pierzynski shouted.

Since losing Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, the White Sox - guided by their high-energy, always-yapping manager, Ozzie Guillen - won eight consecutive games.

Overall, they captured 11 of 12 playoff games, joining the 1999 New York Yankees as the only teams to do that since the postseason expanded in 1995.

It wasn't easy, especially in a Series in which all four games were decided by one or two runs. It wasn't always pretty. But everything - every move, every risk - seemed to work.

"It's surreal," said White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. "It could have gone the other way. It will go down as a sweep, but it wasn't a blowout."

Paced by a brilliant effort from No. 4 starter Freddy Garcia, the White Sox made sure the pesky but exhausted Astros never got off the mat last night.

After losing 30 of their first 45 games, the Astros made a season of overcoming difficult odds.

But not last night. Last night was a three-legged horse in the Kentucky Derby kind of odds. It was Rafael Palmeiro winning the Congressional Medal of Honor kind of odds.

A team had never blown a 3-0 lead in the World Series. There have been 3-0 leads 22 times now, and 19 have ended in sweeps.

And there were other obstacles for the Astros. They were coming off a demoralizing, 14-inning defeat in Game 3. They had batted just .225 with runners in scoring position in the first three losses.

And they had to face Garcia, a 14-game winner who had won five of his previous eight postseason starts. He didn't back down last night, pitching seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits while striking out seven.

Along with three relievers, he helped keep the Astros hitless in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Garcia and Brandon Backe traded zeroes for seven innings in the best-pitched game of a series that was supposed to be thick with quality arms.

But in the bottom of the seventh, Astros manager Phil Garner pinch hit for Backe. The move backfired when Jeff Bagwell grounded out weakly and then Astros closer Brad Lidge allowed a run in the top of the eighth.

Former Oriole Willie Harris pinch hit for Garcia to start the eighth.

A day earlier, Harris had talked about getting an opportunity to make a difference in this series after sitting on the bench much of the postseason.

He got his chance. Harris singled off Lidge and scored from third on a two-out hit by Dye.

It was a fitting ending. An unheralded player like Harris scoring on a single by Dye, a guy whom Williams had targeted because he thought he'd be a good fit.

While Williams and his players were jumping in the post-game, champagne-swilling circle, Frank Thomas, the injured slugger who had been the club's face for years, stood in a corner, drinking champagne and wearing a plastic bag over the cast on his left foot.

"I'm so happy and so proud that I was able to stay here and be a part of this," Thomas said. "This is the highlight of my career. All the individual things mean nothing; winning this championship is what it's all about."

Thomas held up the bottle to his teammates and Williams and smiled. He had the look of a thirsty man who had watched an 88-year drought come to an end.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

SERIES SWEEP AT A GLANCE

GAME 1: WHITE SOX, 5-3

TURNING POINT

Rookie closer Bobby Jenks (right), who hadn't pitched in 15 days, seals the victory with a four-out save, striking out three.

GAME 2: WHITE SOX, 7-6

TURNING POINT

Scott Podsednik, who had no homers in the regular season, wins it in the bottom of the ninth with a home run.

GAME 3: WHITE SOX, 7-5

TURNING POINT

Ex-Astro Geoff Blum's 14th-inning homer in his first career Series at-bat helps decide a 5-hour, 41-minute game (the longest by time in Series history).

GAME 4: WHITE SOX, 1-0

TURNING POINT

With an RBI single by Jermaine Dye (left), the White Sox create an eighth-inning run to beat the Astros, who stranded six runners in scoring position.

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