“Realistically, I don't know if they could be pitching much better than they have.”
By the end of Game 4 of the ALCS, Joe Buck had a different way to summarize things.
“The dominance continues.”
Realistic or not, the White Sox starting rotation was just plain unhittable in the penultimate series of the 2005 season.
First it was Jose Contreras, setting the tone in a losing effort in Game 1 and coming two outs away from a complete game. Mark Buehrle followed with what he called — to that point, before the no-hitter and the perfect game — one of the best games of his career. Game 3 saw Jon Garland take the baton and stifle the Los Angeles Angels. And then it was Freddy Garcia, dealing as the White Sox cruised to a Game 4 win.
And so while the Fox broadcast spent an awful lot of time on supposed controversies, missed calls by the umpires and breaks for the White Sox, let’s face it: Those Angels weren’t hitting that pitching staff.
After the way Game 2 wrapped up, with A.J. Pierzynski swinging, missing and running to first base in a baffling display that for some reason worked, controversy was a storyline. And boy, did it get milked in Game 4.
Now, this isn’t to say that there weren’t missed calls or that the White Sox didn’t experience a couple breaks in this contest. There were. And they did.
After the Angels chopped the White Sox lead to 3-1 on an RBI hit in the second inning, they still had two men on with only one out. But instead of a rally, Steve Finley hit into an inning-ending double play. His bat, replay clearly showed, hit Pierzynski’s glove on the swing, meaning by rule he should have gone to first on catcher’s interference and loaded the bases. Instead, he turned around to argue while running out the ground ball, hence the double play.
He should have learned from Pierzynski and just busted it down to first base, leaving the details to be sorted out later. No call came, and Finley was out, the Angels’ rally stopped.
The White Sox lead back to three runs in the fifth inning, Scott Podsednik — who had a remarkable game, on base four times with two stolen bases and two runs scored — was seemingly picked off at first base. But the call was safe, and he scored later in the inning to extend a tight three-run game to a four-run game.
But did it really matter? Would any of it made a difference?
Garcia was on point, just like his three rotation-mates before him. He allowed just two runs on only six hits, walking one. He did that 2005 White Sox thing where he pitched fast, pitched to his defense and pitched the Angels into a whole bunch of outs.
You can point to the breaks all you want, attempt to stir up controversy. But the White Sox pitchers were so good that nothing was stopping them as they marched to a pennant.
The only thing that could, as we saw in Game 1 of the series, was an equally strong pitching performance on the other side. That’s exactly what Paul Byrd turned in against Contreras in that first game, and a White Sox lineup that slugged against the Red Sox in the ALDS was stymied. A sick Jarrod Washburn did his best in Game 2, with some help from a terrific crop of relievers, only for Pierzynski to flip the series on its head. In Games 3 and 4 in Anaheim, the Angels couldn’t match Garland and Garcia. An awakened group of White Sox bats hung a crooked number on John Lackey in Game 3 and had the same rude greeting for Ervin Santana — a future member of the South Side rotation, however briefly — in Game 4.
The old sports cliche goes that defense wins championships. In baseball, pitching wins championships. It did in 2005. And no amount of supposed controversy was going to change that.
Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 5 of the ALCS, airing at 7 p.m. Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago.