Sometimes you’ve just got to shout out a game-saving play.
In this instance, the fact that the play was needed was actually the fault of the person who made it. But that’s baseball for you: You always have a chance to make up for what you just did.
On April 23, 2005, the White Sox and the Royals were locked in a two-all tie in the bottom of the ninth of a tilt in Kansas City. Damaso Marte, however, was in a bit of a jam. After Luis Vizcaino gave up the tying run in the previous inning, Marte loaded the bases with one out.
In a pressure-packed moment that could have instantly ended with the White Sox the losers, Marte did not help his own cause by throwing a way-off-the-mark pitch right past A.J. Pierzynski.
The runner on third, Matt Diaz, came home in an attempt to score the game-winning run and walk off the visiting White Sox. But Pierzynski and Marte sprung into action. Pierzynski fed Marte, Marte met Diaz at home and the reliever tagged the runner for the second out of the inning.
You’ve got to love Hawk Harrelson’s call on that one, too: “Here comes the runner! Give it to him! You got him! Yes!”
Marte followed that up with an inning-ending strikeout, allowing the White Sox bats to score the game-winning run in the 10th inning. Ozzie Guillen sent Marte back out for the bottom of the 10th, and Marte went 1-2-3 to lock down the win.
Every championship season — and plenty of those that don’t end with a trophy — features those kinds of game-saving plays. And it was, in general, a game-saving performance by the White Sox bullpen as a whole in this one.
Jose Contreras lasted just 3.1 innings — details on that below — forcing the South Side relief corps into duty for a whopping 6.2 innings. They limited the Royals to just one run.
I talked earlier during our #SoxRewind about how good the White Sox bullpen was, combining with that sensational rotation to make a truly championship-caliber pitching staff. And Adam Hoge wrote about Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts, two of the four White Sox relievers who stepped up to fill the Contreras-less innings in this one.
It’ll be a recurring theme, that great relief.
And on this day back in 2005, a reliever even got in some defensive excellence, too, saving the game for the White Sox.
— After giving up a leadoff homer to David DeJesus, Contreras was dealing. He struck out six of the last eight batters he faced coming into the bottom of the fourth. But coming off the mound on a ground ball hit by Mike Sweeney, he tweaked something in his leg. After a lot of hobbling around the infield, he faced Matt Stairs, who tried to take advantage of Contreras’ physical condition with a bunt attempt. When Contreras hit Stairs with the next pitch, Guillen took his starting pitcher out of the game. Darrin Jackson was under the impression the hit batter had nothing to do with Contreras’ leg hurting and instead was in retaliation for Stairs’ bunt try. Whatever the reason, perhaps both, Contreras lasted just 3.1 innings, his shortest outing of the 2005 season.
— How good was the White Sox rotation in 2005? Contreras’ 3.1-inning outing April 23 was the shortest start made by any of the team’s top four starters that season. The team experienced just three shorter outings by a starting pitcher in 2005, two by Orlando Hernandez and one by Brandon McCarthy.
— The Royals lost 106 games in 2005, and it's not difficult to see why. Kansas City made mistakes all over the place in this one, including two huge ones in crunch time. Diaz coming home on that wild pitch with the bases loaded and just one out was ill advised and potentially prevented the Royals from scoring the winning run in the ninth. Then in the 10th, the Royals botched a double play, only getting one out when the ball was lost on the transfer at second base. It allowed Pierzynski to stay at first base, and he eventually came around to score the winning run on an Aaron Rowand base hit.
— One of the best pitchers in modern baseball history was not so great in 2005. Zack Greinke was a 21-year-old kid when he faced the White Sox in this one. He was good in this game, giving up only one earned run in his seven innings. But he ended up losing 17 games, the most in the AL, in 2005, finishing the campaign with a 5.80 ERA. Fast forward four years, and Greinke was the AL Cy Young winner thanks to a pencil-thin 2.16 ERA that led the major leagues. In his 16-year big league career, Greinke has finished in the top 10 of Cy Young voting five times, turned in six 200-strikeout seasons, made six All-Star teams and won and won six Gold Gloves.
— Pierzynski isn’t the prototypical speed demon. But he motored home from first base on a Juan Uribe double in the second inning. Any sort of good relay would have been sure to nab Pierzynski at the plate. But the Royals couldn’t put that together, and he scored easily. Even Jackson was surprised at the decision to send Pierzynski home: “There's no way he's supposed to send Pierzynski home on that play.” Well, it worked.
— The White Sox 14-4 start was the best through 18 games in club history.
Since you been gone
While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?
April 21, 2005: The White Sox took back-to-back walks to force in a run in the first inning, but Jeremy Bonderman was otherwise strong. The South Siders needed to make a late comeback to topple the Tigers this day, Scott Podsednik driving in a pair with a seventh-inning single to flip a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 win. White Sox win, 4-3, improve to 12-4.
April 22, 2005: The White Sox wore out Royals pitching, scoring eight runs on 12 hits, but hit no homers. Podsednik drew three walks and stole three bases. White Sox win, 8-2, improve to 13-4.
#SoxRewind rolls on Thursday, when you can catch the April 25, 2005, game against the A’s, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Jon Garland goes the distance, and Chris Widger goes deep.
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