White Sox

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Chris Widger homered for the first time in five years

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Chris Widger homered for the first time in five years

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.

What else?

— 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.

Next up

#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.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

White Sox 2005 Rewind: 'The only a------ that wasn't tight was El Duque's'

White Sox 2005 Rewind: 'The only a------ that wasn't tight was El Duque's'

Bases loaded. Nobody out. And the White Sox held the slimmest of leads, 4-3, in Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS.

And who did Ozzie Guillen turn to?

Cliff Politte, an ace reliever who posted a 2.00 ERA during the regular season? Or Neal Cotts, who was even more effective, with a 1.94 ERA? Or even Dustin Hermanson, who closed out so many nail-biters before being replaced with fireballing rookie Bobby Jenks, and his 2.04 ERA?

No, Guillen went with the former fifth starter who was jettisoned from the rotation weeks earlier, a guy who had a 5.12 ERA during the regular season.

Enter: El Duque.

Orlando Hernandez didn’t put up the kind of regular-season numbers that would typically warrant his manager’s utmost confidence in the season’s most critical moment. But he had been in this position before.

During an illustrious tenure with the Yankees, Hernandez pitched in six postseasons in seven years, winning three World Series rings, logging more than 100 playoff innings and bringing a 2.65 ERA playoff ERA into this least enviable of situations that night at Fenway Park.

Guillen opted for playoff experience over regular-season results. And boy, did it work.

“There’s 45,000 people in the stands with tight a-------,” White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper told Our Chuck Garfien years later in an NBC Sports Chicago interview. “Every fan’s got the tight a------. Every coach, every player’s got the tight a------.

“The only a------ that wasn’t tight was El Duque’s.”

RELATED: White Sox 2005 Rewind: With a little help from old friend Tony Graffanino

Hernandez did the impossible, and he did it in the most dramatic fashion imaginable. With Fenway in a frenzy, he got Jason Varitek to pop out, coaxed the same result from Tony Graffanino to close out a 10-pitch at-bat and struck out Johnny Damon on a check swing to finish a seven-pitch at-bat, the latter two both going to full counts.

It was an escape act of epic proportions, one that carved El Duque into White Sox history and chiseled him into the statue that stands outside Guaranteed Rate Field.

“Tremendous inning under the highest amount of pressure that you can have as a baseball player,” Cooper said. “What’s worse? Bases loaded, nobody out in a playoff game. The stadium’s packed, and the whole world is watching the game. And he came through.

“The most important inning in White Sox history? Is it fair to say? I think so.”

Considering what followed, that might strike some as a tad hyperbolic. After all, if the White Sox coughed up that narrow lead in the sixth inning of Game 3, they still had three more innings to stage a comeback attempt. Even if they lost Game 3, they had two more games to win the series. And there were two more rounds of playoffs standing between a series win in Boston and ending an 88-year championship drought.

But Cooper’s right.

This entire postseason run was full of unforgettable moments. Tadahito Iguchi hit a go-ahead three-run homer two days before El Duque’s heroics. In the next round, A.J. Pierzynski swung and missed and ran to first base to turn the ALCS on its head. In the World Series, Paul Konerko, Scott Podsednik and Geoff Blum hit home runs permanently etched into the collective memory of the South Side.

But those were single swings of the bat. Hernandez had to grit through three at-bats when any slip up would have meant a tie game or worse. With nobody out, an early mistake could have snowballed into a huge inning for the Red Sox.

Not only did Hernandez escape the sixth inning. He pitched the seventh and eight, too. All in all, he retired nine of 10 batters, striking out four of them over those three innings. All with only a one-run lead. It doesn’t get any more clutch than that.

“He’s probably got the most heart of any pitcher I’ve ever been around,” Konerko told ESPN’s Erin Andrews after the game.

And why was he the guy to do it? Because he’d been there before.

He just wanted to make sure he didn’t have to be there again.

“(After the game), Duque comes over to me and says, ‘Cooper, one thing I’ll tell you. It’s OK next time if you bring me in with one guy on base. It’s even OK if you bring me in with two guys on base. But no more with three!’”

Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 1 of the ALCS, airing at 7 p.m. Tuesday on NBC Sports Chicago.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

MLB The Show: White Sox celebrate Memorial Day with 6-4 win over Orioles

MLB The Show: White Sox celebrate Memorial Day with 6-4 win over Orioles

NBC Sports Chicago is simulating the 2020 White Sox season via MLB The Show during the postponement of play. The White Sox, stocked with young talent and veteran offseason acquisitions, were expected to take a big step forward in their rebuild this season. Follow along as we play out the first few months of the season.

Result: White Sox def. Orioles, 6-4

Record: 25-29, 3rd in A.L. Central (5.0 GB of Twins)

W: Reynaldo Lopez (5-2)
L: Asher Wojciechowski (1-6)
SV: Alex Colome (8)

Game summary: Monday’s Memorial Day matchup between the White Sox and Orioles was one of two teams going in opposite directions. The White Sox are red hot with a six-game winning streak, while the O’s were riding a nine-game losing skid.

The White Sox set off the fireworks early with a leadoff home run from Edwin Encarnacion, his 16th of the season. Two batters later, Yoan Moncada homered for the 10th time this season, becoming the sixth White Sox hitter with double-digit long balls on the season. 

Encarnacion continued his run production in the fourth, driving in Luis Robert with a RBI single to left field to give the Sox a 3-1 lead. The offense didn’t skip a frame, scoring two in the fifth behind a Jose Abreu sacrifice fly and a Tim Anderson RBI single to give the Sox a four-run advantage.

The following inning, Eloy Jimenez joined the power production with his 20th homer of the season, tied for league lead with Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon.

White Sox lineup:

Edwin Encarnacion: 2-5, HR, 2 RBI (.314 BA)
Eloy Jimenez: 1-5, HR, RBI (.268 BA)
Yoan Moncada: 2-5, HR, RBI (.261 BA)
Nick Madrigal: 2-5, 2B (.252 BA)
Jose Abreu: 1-4, RBI (.308 BA)
Tim Anderson: 2-4, RBI, 2B (.300 BA)
Luis Robert: 0-3, BB (.237 BA)
Yasmani Grandal: 2-4, 2 2B (.299 BA)
Nomar Mazara: 1-4 (.244 BA)

Scoring summary:

Top first:

Edwin Encarnacion homered to center field. 1-0 CHW.
Yoan Moncada homered to right field. 2-0 CHW.

Bottom second:

Renato Nunez homered to left field. 2-1 CHW.

Top fourth:

Encarnacion singled to left field, Luis Robert scored. 3-1 CHW.

Top fifth:

Jose Abreu sacrifice fly to center field, Moncada scored. 4-1 CHW.
Tim Anderson singled to center field, Nick Madrigal scored. 5-1 CHW.

Top sixth:

Eloy Jimenez homered to left field. 6-1 CHW.

Bottom seventh:

Austin Hays doubled to right field, Trey Mancini scored. 6-2 CHW.

Bottom ninth:

Ramon Urias doubled to right field, D.J. Stewart and Hays scored. 6-4 CHW.

Notable performance: Reynaldo Lopez continues to pitch well, leading the White Sox with five wins on the season. He went 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven Baltimore batters and only allowing two earned runs. 

Next game: Tuesday, May 26 - Game 55: White Sox at Orioles (Michael Kopech, 0-0, 2.13 ERA vs Keegan Akin, 2-3, 4.44 ERA)

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