Baseball’s history is long, so what happened in the bottom of the eighth on May 5, 2005, probably happened before.
But it couldn’t have happened many times.
When you shotgun a season of winning baseball in quick succession, like we’re doing while watching #SoxRewind, it’s easy to notice how good teams are capable of finding so many different ways to win. The White Sox 21st win of the 2005 season took that concept to the extreme.
Zack Greinke dominated the South Side offense through seven innings, allowing just two hits and no runs. Jose Contreras stifled the Royals almost as well, but a home run off the bat of Tony Graffanino in the seventh gave the visitors a 1-0 lead.
The White Sox didn’t get another hit, but they capitalized on some dreadful Royals pitching to grab what had to be one of their more improbable victories in a 99-win season.
Greinke walked Paul Konerko to lead off the bottom of the eighth, and after a sacrifice bunt, Jermaine Dye was hit by a pitch to put the go-ahead run on base. Andy Sisco came in and got Jamie Burke to ground out — he swung at the first pitch — but the wheels quickly fell off. Sisco walked Joe Crede on five pitches to load the bases, and then he walked Juan Uribe on four pitches to force in the tying run.
Uribe didn’t seem to have any intention of swinging, making the plate appearance seem like it would have had the same result had he left his bat in the dugout.
After Sisco got the hook, Ambiorix Burgos entered and promptly walked Scott Podsednik to put the White Sox in front.
Against three straight batters with two runners in scoring position and two outs, including back-to-back with the bases loaded, Royals relievers threw 13 pitches, just one of which was a strike.
Though Tadahito Iguchi struck out to end the inning, the bottom of the eighth went thusly for the White Sox: They scored two runs, flipped a deficit to a lead, sent eight men to the plate, saw five men reach base and got exactly zero hits.
Winning 99 regular-season games and winning a championship takes an awful lot of talent and overmatching of opponents. But it also takes a good amount of good fortune, and this day, the White Sox took advantage of the mistakes of a Royals team that ended up with 106 losses.
And it happened in a way you’ll be hard pressed to witness again.
— The conditions were right for the White Sox to pull out a win after Contreras dazzled through eight innings of one-run ball. It was his first win of the season and one of his finest performances of 2005. Prior to giving up the seventh-inning home run to Graffanino, he retired 17 of the first 19 batters he faced. Then after giving up the homer and allowing two more base runners in the seventh, he went 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth on just seven pitches.
This was one of five regular-season outings in 2005 in which Contreras went at least eight innings. The other four came in his final eight starts of the year, including in each of his final three.
— Shingo time finally ran out. After the White Sox took the lead in that wacky eighth, the closer didn’t make for an easy save in the ninth. Aaron Rowand made a diving play to get the first out of the inning, but Takatsu followed with back-to-back walks, putting the go-ahead run on base. He got a strikeout of Ken Harvey for Out No. 2, but both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch during the next at-bat. Takatsu got Terrence Long to fly out to end the game, but that was far too much of a nail-biter.
Takatsu’s tenure as White Sox closer was over after this game, his final appearance in a save situation as a South Sider.
— That Rowand catch for the first out in the ninth inning? It was fantastic, by the way.
— Goodness, Greinke was good. As discussed the last time we saw the 21-year-old Greinke on #SoxRewind, this was not one of his better seasons. But he looked like the elite pitcher he has since become in this one, all but completely shutting down the White Sox offense. Before starting that ludicrous eighth inning, he tossed seven shutout innings with just two singles allowed. Greinke was seeing this same situation play out over and over again to begin his 2005 season. He was getting no run support, like worse than Jose Quintana levels of run support. The Royals scored a grand total of seven runs in his first five starts coming into this game, then scored one in this game and one in the next, giving Greinke an average of just 1.29 runs per game over his first seven starts of the season.
— Darrin Jackson: “It’s not something you’re going to see very often, Scott Podsednik caught stealing.” Coming into this game, that was certainly the case. The White Sox leadoff hitter, coming off 70 stolen bases with the Brewers in 2004, had 11 swiped bags and had been caught stealing just once in his first 21 contests as a South Sider. But Podsednik actually ended up the major league leader in that category, caught 23 times by the time the regular season wrapped up. Of course, he also stole 59 bases, a total that ranked third in baseball behind Chone Figgins (62) and Jose Reyes (60). He was caught stealing for the second time in the fourth inning of this game.
— As mentioned, Graffanino’s home run accounted for the only Royals run. Graffanino spent four seasons with the White Sox, batting .271 with a .344 on-base percentage. This was one of four home runs he hit against the South Siders in his 13-year major league career.
#SoxRewind rolls on Monday, when you can catch the May 8, 2005, game against the Blue Jays, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. The White Sox bats jumped all over Gustavo Chacin, and Mark Buehrle had just one bumpy inning en route to his fifth win.
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.