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October 4th – The Sox

(Part’s of this, was quoted from the Chicago Tribune)

Paul Konerko thought the curtain call that followed his third-inning home run Tuesday was something special.

But “after seven curtain calls, it was no big deal,” Konerko said after the White Sox gave a zealous sellout crowd of 40,717 a wide spectrum of achievements to relish in a 14-2 humbling of defending World Series champion Boston in Game 1 of the best-of-five American League Division Series at toasty U.S. Cellular Field.

Third baseman Joe Crede had a one-word description of the stunning manner in which the White Sox blew out the Red Sox.

“Wow,” Crede said.

The White Sox won their first postseason home game since Game 1 of the 1959 World Series with relentless hitting. They doubled their entire run total from their last postseason appearance, a three-game sweep by Seattle in the 2000 division series.

They also outslugged the AL’s top hitting team with five home runs, ranging from Konerko’s solo shot in the third inning to Scott Podsednik’s three-run shot in the sixth that capped a four-run inning and was Podsednik’s first homer since Sept. 30, 2004, at St. Louis.

The five home runs, including two from A.J. Pierzynski and a two-run shot by Juan Uribe in the fourth, tied a division series record set last year by St. Louis.

That was more than enough support for Jose Contreras, who extended his impressive post-All-Star run by limiting Boston’s formidable lineup to two runs over 72/3 innings.

“Everyone is focusing on 14 runs,” Konerko said. “I’m focusing on two runs. That’s the difference.”

Contreras limited the hard-hitting twosome of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez to two hits in eight at-bats and kept leadoff batter Johnny Damon hitless in four at-bats.

“I think he exorcised all the demons,” White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said after Contreras became the first White Sox pitcher since Wilson Alvarez in 1993 to win a playoff game.

Contreras was 2-4 lifetime with an 11.67 ERA against Boston entering Tuesday’s game but pitched up to his 11-2 second-half record by keeping Boston’s hitters off balance with a Bruce Sutter-like split-finger fastball to complement his 94-m.p.h. fastball.

Contreras didn’t walk a batter and threw 70 of his 100 pitches for strikes. He should be reasonably fresh to start Game 5 if the series goes the distance.

“He was tremendous,” Cooper said. “By beating the Red Sox, the slate is all clear for him. He knows where he’s at and what he’s doing as far as the run he’s on and the confidence he’s got.”

The White Sox feel the same way about their once-struggling offense that took advantage of Matt Clement’s lack of command.

They “small-balled” their way to two first-inning runs, utilizing two hit batsmen, a sacrifice, a stolen base and two singles. Pierzynski’s three-run homer capped the five-run inning, the largest postseason outburst by a White Sox team since the third inning of Game 1 of the ‘59 World Series, when the White Sox scored seven runs.

“If this team has a weakness, it’s not the lack of talent,” hitting coach Greg Walker said. “It’s a lack of discipline. I’m happy for them. They did well.

“I saw it in their eyes the last two days. They seemed more focused about what they wanted to accomplish. If we’re disciplined and we get a pitch in the strike zone, we’re a pretty good hitting team.”

Perhaps it was a tribute to the Sox’s discipline and Contreras’ control that the White Sox drew more walks than Boston 3-0 even though the Red Sox led the AL in walks while the White Sox ranked 11th.

The White Sox never let up on offense, defense or the mound, where Contreras kept his composure after two singles, a Crede error, a wild pitch and Kevin Millar’s double in the fourth cut the Sox’s lead to 6-2.

Manager Ozzie Guillen went to the mound to keep Contreras focused, and he retired 14 of the next 15 batters before leaving to an ovation.

“We saw a much more mature pitcher,” Boston manager Terry Francona said.

The Sox’s defense didn’t let up. Right fielder Jermaine Dye made a diving catch to rob Edgar Renteria of a hit to start the eighth. Center fielder Aaron Rowand crashed into the fence in a failed attempt to catch John Olerud’s double, and Podsednik leaped to the top of the left-field fence to catch Tony Graffanino’s drive to end the game.

After Podsednik’s homer in the sixth, his teammates playfully gave him the silent treatment.

They also were amused when Pierzynski failed on a bunt attempt before cranking a Clement pitch over the fence in left-center.

But the White Sox didn’t declare themselves a power team after their five-homer performance ended a streak of 25 innings without a Sox home run.

“It doesn’t mean anything for [Wednesday night],” Pierzynski said. “[The Red Sox] aren’t going to quit or go away. They’ve done things that are very special.”

Said Cooper: “Let’s face it, these guys hold the [championship] belt. We’ve got to come out with the same energy.”

The large lead allowed Guillen to pull some of his starting players, but the reserves maintained the intensity and production.

Willie Harris had a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth to end the scoring, and Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts pitched 11/3 scoreless innings to culminate one of the most festive victories in Sox history.

While neutralizing Ortiz, the Sox also ended Ramirez’s 18-game postseason hitting streak.

“Getting those two guys out, it sent a message,” Pierzynski said.

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