Superstars from the Dominican Republic, Albert Pujols is at 1st base for his fifth season with the Cardinals. An Angel in the outfield, Vladimir Guerrero is easily identifiable by the swing of his bat, his strong throwing arm from right field, and his unusual hairdo.
For the first time in Major League Baseball postseason history, three brothers, all catchers from Puerto Rico, are on the rosters of the League Championship Series. Bengie and José Molina “receptores” for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and youngest brother Yadier Molina catching for the St. Louis Cardinals.
THE AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The White Sox have not been to the World Series since 1959 and have not won a Championship since 1917. Chicago Manager, Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen, is quoted as saying “baseball is a game of inches, and inch-by-inch, I think we have a good enough team to get to the World Series”.
Game 1 – Los Angeles Angels @ Chicago U.S. Cellular Field. Ex-Yankees pitcher José Contreras was the starter for Chicago. The Cuban right-hander pitched during 8-1/3 innings, allowing just 7 hits but lost for the first time since August 15th, ending his nine-start winning streak.
The Angels of Anaheim, unfazed by their three day travel in three different time zones of East coast, West coast and Midwest, scored their runs early against Contreras to beat Chicago 3 runs to 2. Paul Byrd won for the Angels. Relief pitcher Francisco Rivera got the save. The Angels won game one for the first time in 6 postseason series under Manager Mike Scioscia.
Game 2 - At the bottom of the 9th inning, White Sox catcher A.J. Piersynski struck out swinging but home plate Umpire Doug Eddings ruled that the ball hit the dirt and the Angels catcher Josh Paul did not make a clean catch. The bad call of a dropped third strike gave the White Sox an extra out. Pablo Ozuna was the pinch runner for Pierzynski at first base. Ozuna stole second and scored the game-winning run on a Joe Crede double. Chicago beat the Angels 2 runs to 1.
Mark Buehrle pitched the complete game for Chicago, allowing 5 hits while striking out 4. Venezuelan pitcher, Kelvim Escobar took the loss for the Angels.
The game will go down as the most disputed ending in postseason history. Until now, the most famous play involving a dropped third strike came in game 4 of the 1941 World Series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees.
Game 3 – Chicago @ Los Angeles Angels Stadium. The White Sox took the lead 2 games to 1 against the Angels. Orlando Cabrera, shortstop for the Angels, native of Cartagena, Colombia connected with a 2 run “Quadrangular” but Chicago went on to win 5 runs to 2. Chicago’s Jon Garland pitched the complete game, allowing 4 hits, 1 walk, and 7 strikeouts. John Lackey was the losing pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Game 4 - It is said that pitching is the name of the game.
The Angels 22 year old Rookie, Ervin Santana who beat the New York Yankees in the Division Series, when he took the mound in relief of the injured Bartolo Colon, pitched the 4th game in the ALCS. The Rookie was matched against the veteran pitcher of Caracas, Venezuela, Freddy Garcia. In the first inning Santana exhibited a 94 mph fastball but Chicago’s batters took a walk, got hit-by-pitch and first baseman Paul Konerko connected a home run to quickly put Chicago on the scoreboard with 3 runs. The 3 runs were all Chicago needed as they won against the Angels 8 runs to 2. The Rookie, Ervin Santana experienced his first loss during a postseason game. The win gave Chicago the lead in the AL Championship Series 3 games to 1.
Chicago pitcher Freddy Garcia pitched a 6 hitter. The complete game win followed Mark Buehrle’s 5 hitter and Jon Garland’s 4 hitter. The White Sox became the first team to pitch three straight complete games in the postseason since the New York Mets Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack and Jerry Koosman pitched consecutive complete games during the 1973 NLCS against Cincinnati.
After Chicago’s third victory, White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen said “From the first day of the playoffs the pitching always has been good”.
At the conclusion of the first 4 games it became obvious that the Angels were not the same team that beat the New York Yankees in the Division playoffs. While it can be disputed that perhaps inconsistencies by the Umpires behind the home plate gave Chicago a bit of an edge, there is no doubt that through the series, the White Sox had great pitching, played better defense and were effective in clutch hitting while producing big homeruns.
Game 5 – Chicago gana Pennant! Chicago gana Pennant! The White Sox are the American League Champions and will play in their first World Series since 1959. Al Lopez was the Manager in Chicago during 1959. Celebrating victory this time around is Manager Ozzie Guillen.
Jose Contreras pitched Chicago’s fourth straight complete game to beat the Angels 6-3 and win the AL Championship Series. Chicago is the first team with four consecutive complete game victories, since the 1956 New York Yankees.
The star White Sox 1st baseman Paul Konerko won the ALCS MVP for batting 6 hits, 2 homeruns, 7 RBIs.
On Saturday night, October 22nd in Chicago, the White Sox will play the first game of the World Series vs. Houston or St. Louis. It will be the White Sox dream at winning their first World Series title since 1917.
Some say it is an opportunity for redemption. During 1919, the White Sox lost the most infamous World Series ever played when Shoeless Joe Jackson and his “Black Sox” threw games against Cincinnati giving Major League Baseball a bad record which would follow the Chicago White Sox through history.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals
The Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals play against each other in the NLCS for the second year in a row. During 2004, St. Louis went on to the World Series to be defeated by the Boston Red Sox in a four game sweep.
Game 1 – Houston @ Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Andy Pettitte started for the Wild Card Houston Astros and took the lose against the Cardinals 5 runs to 3. Pettitte struggled through 8 innings, giving up 8 hits, 1 home run, 2 walks, while striking out 2.
Earlier, while running the bases during batting practice, Pettitte was struck by a sharp liner on the inside of his right knee. The Astros advised that he was fine, although he had a little swelling. But, after the game, Manager Phil Garner commented “It swelled up on him and that was probably a little factor in the game. “He was trying to pitch through it.”
Chris Carpenter won the game for St. Louis. Jason Isringhausen got the save.
A game one victory is usually a good omen in the NLCS. Twelve straight times, the winner of the opener has gone on to the World Series. Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa is too smart to depend on omens, so expect his team to play smart ball to the end.
Game 2 - Roy Oswalt, the 20 game winner for Houston evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece by shutting the Cardinals down to one run, a 438-foot home run by Albert Pujols in the 6th inning. Houston won over St. Louis 4 to 1. Mark Mulder took the loss for St. Louis while pitching 7 innings, allowing 2 runs, 8 hits, 2 walks and striking out 6. Dominican pitcher Julian Tavarez pitched one inning of relief allowing 2 runs. The veteran right hand pitcher Tavarez began his playing career pitching 3 seasons for the Cleveland Indians.
Game 3 – St. Louis @ Houston Minute Maid Park. Roger Clemens has a World Series Ring from the New York Yankees but the ultimate goal of the seven time Cy Young Award winner is to lead his hometown Houston Astros to their first World Series. Houston nearly won the pennant during 2004, but Clemens blew a two-run lead and lost game 7 of the NLCS at St. Louis.
On Saturday, the 43 year old “Rocket” Clemens defeated St. Louis 4-3 and gave the NLCS lead to Houston 2 games to 1. The Cardinals starting pitcher Matt Morris surrendered the 4 runs and took the loss for the Cardinals.
Game 4 – The Houston Astros starting pitcher Brandon Backe and 4 relief pitchers beat the Cardinals by a score of 2 to 1.
Again, on another night in this postseason of baseball, the home plate umpire is caught in controversy while Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa and centerfielder Jim Edmonds are ejected from the game for arguing balls and strikes.
Game 5 – With the wrecking ball ready to take down Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Albert Pujols with one swing of his bat sent his own wrecking ball into the stands of Minute Maid Park to break down a night of celebration by Houston. The Cardinals won, 5 to 4, and it is back to St. Louis.
Houston now leading the series 3 games to 2 places the Rocket’s team within one win of Houston’s first trip to the World Series.
One thing is certain, whatever the outcome of the remaining games between St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros, the winning team will eventually be traveling to Chicago to play the “Spanish accented, kissing, hugging White Sox.”
The winner of the NLCS will be facing Chicago’s incredible pitching rotation of Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy García, José Contreras and a very well rested relief pitching bullpen.
As incredible are 2 facts: Chicago’s closer Dustin Hermanson, credited with 34 saves during the regular season never got the opportunity to pitch and save an ALCS game. And, Orlando “El Duque”Hernández who has pitched in 17 postseason games, and whose career playoff victories rank 3rd all time among New York Yankees pitchers and was the MVP during the 1999 ALCS, during this series was happily celebrating the pitcher he helped mentor, José Contreras.
I will end with a quote from Ozzie Guillen “Enjoy it. Have a great time. Don’t get too crazy in the street. Be careful. I know people are going wild right now. We don’t want to hear anything happened in the street tonight. Feel proud about his team. Feel proud about what we did.”
The Southside of Chicago and all baseball fans can anticipate that the Chicago White Sox and their Manager Ozzie Guillen will make for a very exciting World Series.
Amigos y Amigas de La Prensa, enjoy the games!