Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An ill-timed glitch, then we came to the end

Sorry, folks, problems with Blogger again yesterday morning prevented me from making some timely comments on our city's one, very lonely postseason win. As it turned out, there wasn't much time to enjoy the celebration after the White Sox' 5-3 Game 3 ALDS win over the Rays, as barely 24 hours later, those same Rays were celebrating their first play-off series victory on our own carpet.

But, let's not gloss over Game 3: Danks proved to be the big-game pitcher we knew he could be. He mostly mowed down a Rays line-up that no one else seemed to have an answer for, striking out seven in 6.2 IP. The few jams he got himself into, he managed is way out of, and was one out from notching 7 IP when he gave up a two-run shot to B.J. Upton, who had been silent the whole series until then. For once, the Sox bullpen held, as Matt Thornton and Bobby Jenks kept the Rays in check the rest of the way.

Ozzie was aggressive with the base-running plan, unless it was all the players. With the bases jammed with piano movers (Thome on 3rd, Paulie on 2nd, Junior on 1st), the Missile hit a sacrifice fly. Thome scored, but the real surprise was seeing Paulie, who seriously must be the slowest man in the league, tag and take 3rd, while Junior, whose aged thickening around the middle belies his nickname, took off and made it to second. They may have both been seriously winded, but their improved position helped them score on a double by DeWayne Wise, who might have been ALDS MVP in a parallel universe. It's hard to believe the Great and Powerful Oz didn't have something to do with the tag-up calls, but he didn't let on after the game that this was the case, and in true Ozzie fashion, blabbed that he thought Junior didn't actually tag.

Wise also had a stolen base, and so did B.A., who replaced Junior in the sixth when the future HOFer walked. I thought at the time that with Junior building a nice afternoon with two hits and a walk, Ozzie was really taking a chance removing his bat from the line-up so early against the comeback-kid Rays, but it proved to be a golden move when Juan Uribe came up with a two-out hit that scored B.A.

Game 3 was great overall effort, and the Sox looked as ready for big things as they did going into Game 163 the week before...

The Commish and I were at Game 4, sitting in the upper tank, and I have to say it is a very strange experience watching another team celebrate like that on your field. Painful, yes, but almost more strange than painful, as it's a bit like watching a silent movie (at least for those of us too far up to hear what the Rays were probably yelling and laughing about) or maybe a car crash on the other side of the expressway. The Rolling Black Out tried to keep emotions high throughout yesterday's contest, even with a four-run deficit that looked like an eight-run spread the way the Sox were hitting (which is to say, not much), but by the bottom of the 9th, there was mostly a lot of sighing, and I have never heard a ballpark more quiet than when the fans were exiting and the Rays were dancing for the cameras around the pitcher's mound, celebrating their 6-2 victory. The most touching moment may have been when the handful of fans still left starting cheering "Let's go, White Sox!" as Bobby Jenks and a couple other bullpen pitchers made their way across left field toward the clubhouse. The Sox were done, but the appreciation wasn't.

The Sox offense never had it yesterday against Andy Sonnanstine, one of those guys with a 4+ ERA who suddenly becomes unhittable in the postseason because everyone is too amped up to wait for his 78 mph junk. The last time I saw the Sox flail this badly was in Game 1 of the 2005 ALCS (yes, the only loss of the play-offs) against well-traveled junkball tosser Paul Byrd.

Unfortunately, Gavin Floyd couldn't stay even, giving up 2 HRS to Upton in two straight at-bats. In the 4th inning, the ex-Cub factor reared its head when Cliff Floyd doubled home a run and later score. The Great and Powerful Oz pulled Floyd for young Clayton Richard, who managed 3 IP, 1 ER in another performance that suggests a 5th rotation spot may be in his future. Octavio Dotel turned in an out-less performance and was charged with a run, but the damage was done. All the Sox could muster were solo HRs by Paulie and JeDye in a toothless, four-hit attack.

Some fans on the train ride North tried to keep it together by bragging that the Sox had lasted longer than the Cubs this postseason, but for most, the 3-1 ALDS series provides little to console. What's at stake is so much bigger than cross-town rivalries, as this postseason has painfully made clear. SBW began with the hope, now brutally dashed, that we would see our "great in 2008" Cubs and Sox teams meet for the MLB title. We're embarrassed about the end result, but we'll continue to carry the torch for both teams into the off-season and into 2009. Check back in the days to come as we talk about potential off-season moves for both teams, and list some of our favorite moments from the season that was.

One more thing: I said I would tell you on the eve of the Windy City World Series who I would root for, the Cubs or the Sox. I guess I don't have to tell you now, but I will...

...in my next post.

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