You want some “team of destiny” type moments from the 2005 season?
How about Chris Widger just teeing off on Barry Zito?
Zito is one of the more accomplished pitchers of the modern era and a fearsome foe in his day. He held the White Sox to just a couple hits through the first six innings on April 25, 2005.
Meanwhile, Widger, the White Sox backup catcher, hadn’t homered in a big league game in half a decade. As Chris Kamka described when he remembered this guy back in October, Widger had few big league opportunities after the 2000 season and played fast-pitch softball and independent league ball in 2004 before the White Sox picked him up.
Coming into this matchup against Zito and the A’s, Widger’s last major league homer came against the White Sox, off Mike Sirotka, in a 2000 game on the South Side.
No matter. Widger played the unlikely hero this night, breaking a scoreless tie in the seventh inning by obliterating a Zito offering into the outfield seats at the Oakland Coliseum.
That swing turned the game around, with the White Sox turning a scoreless tie into a 6-0 rout over the final three innings.
Widger also caught Jon Garland’s complete-game shutout in this one, doing good work both at the plate and behind it.
The reserve position players were clutch for these White Sox, and you don’t need to look any further than this game to see it. In addition to Widger’s offensive fireworks, Pablo Ozuna made some things happen in this one, too. He reached base three times, stole two bases and scored two runs, including the fourth run off Zito in the seventh inning with a diving slide into home plate.
Widger and Ozuna were the only two White Sox batters this night with multi-hit games.
Just like the White Sox bullpen complemented the starting rotation to form a championship-caliber pitching staff, the bench provided a few reliable options for Ozzie Guillen when his regulars needed days off.
It all added up to a world-champion roster.
— Garland was fantastic, and he was the story of the night despite all the Widger talk above. This was the second shutout of his career and his first since 2002. This performance capped an incredible month of April for Garland, with a dazzling 1.80 ERA in 30 innings over his first four starts of the campaign. Against the A’s, he allowed just four hits and one walk, retiring the final 13 batters he faced in order. He went toe to toe with Zito and was the better pitcher this night.
— Zito, of course, was good, too. But the White Sox actually ended up handing him one of his worst days of the 2005 season. Of Zito’s major league leading 35 starts, in only 12 of them did he give up more than three earned runs. He made 21 quality starts that season. And he looked every bit his dominant self throughout much of this one. Through six innings, he gave up just two hits, putting only five batters on base. But a pair of two-RBI hits in the seventh turned things around quickly. He went from one of his finest outings of the season to a rare four-run evening. He ended up facing the White Sox again later in the 2005 season, with much better results. Zito tossed eight two-run innings on July 3.
— Two of the five White Sox hitters who reached in those first six innings against Zito reached after getting hit by a pitch. Ozuna was hit in the hand leading off the game. Joe Crede was hit in the ribs leading off the third inning. Zito hit 13 batters in 2005, matching a career high. This was one of two starts where he hit multiple batters. The Angels lineup got it worse 10 days before this game, with three batters hit by Zito pitches.
— Juan Uribe made a couple excellent defensive plays in this one. He made a tremendous play up the middle to rob Eric Chavez of a hit in the sixth inning, sparking a terrific Hawk Harrelson call.
And he made another web gem in the bottom of the ninth to help Garland lock down the win.
— Speaking of web gems, though, the best play of the evening came from future White Sox outfielder Nick Swisher, who made a miraculous diving catch in right field to steal a hit away from Timo Perez in the top of the ninth. Seriously, it was one of the better catches you'll see. Swisher received mixed reviews from fans during his one season on the South Side in 2008, but he had some very good days with the A’s. In 2005, his first full season in the major leagues, he had the first of nine 20-homer seasons and finished sixth in AL Rookie of the Year voting.
— Last but not least, I need to point out Harrelson’s love for a couple of A’s players’ names. Marco Scutaro and Huston Street sounded oh so sweet to Hawk’s ears.
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 24, 2005: The White Sox jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but Orlando Hernandez blew that advantage, with Matt Stairs homering off Cliff Politte to give the Royals a one-run edge. The White Sox struck back, though, in the eighth, getting back-to-back two-out RBI hits from Aaron Rowand and Ozuna to tie the game and then take the lead. White Sox win, 4-3, improve to 15-4.
#SoxRewind rolls on Friday, when you can catch the May 1, 2005, game against the Tigers, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s another Garland gem, plus some more out-of-the-park fun courtesy of Timo Perez.