The White Sox assured themselves Friday night of at least one more postseason home game.
Whether it’s in the American League Championship Series or World Series remains to be seen, but the Sox regained much of their magical regular-season touch by beating the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 in Game 3 of the ALCS before a docile crowd of 44,725 at Angel Stadium.
Jon Garland’s four-hit, complete-game victory on 12 days’ rest and a three-run first inning quieted a once-hostile crowd still fuming from Wednesday’s controversy over a disputed third strike that enabled the Sox to win.
(Part’s of this, was quoted from the Chicago Tribune)
“[Garland’s] fastball was moving a lot, and when it’s moving the way it was tonight he’s tough on anybody,” fellow starter Mark Buehrle said.
The Sox won in methodical style to take a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.
They looked at ease as A.J. Pierzynski tipped his cap to the fans who booed him over the controversial call in pregame introductions. Umpire Doug Eddings, who made the call in favor of the Sox, had a uniformed officer near him down the right-field line.
But it was Garland, Tadahito Iguchi and Paul Konerko who provided the most comfort as the Sox won at Anaheim for only the sixth time in their last 21 games while improving their West Coast record to 21-51 since the 2001 season.
Garland showed few signs of rust following his last appearance on Oct. 1, when he limited Cleveland to four hits in 62/3 innings at Jacobs Field.
His fastball was clocked as high as 94 m.p.h. in the seventh to complement an 80-m.p.h. changeup. He walked only one batter in his 118-pitch effort.
Sox starters have been so good that the bullpen has worked only two-thirds of an inning in three games.
“If you remember at the beginning of the season, [the bullpen] didn’t get much work either,” pitching coach Don Cooper said.
Garland also was aided by solid defense, particularly by Iguchi. In the first, Iguchi was positioned near second and fielded Vladimir Guerrero’s grounder near the bag to start an inning-ending double play.
In the second, Darin Erstad tried to stretch a two-out double into a triple, but Iguchi made a strong, accurate relay throw from shallow right to nail him.
In the fourth, with third baseman Joe Crede shaded toward short, Garland fooled Garret Anderson on an 81-m.p.h. outside pitch. Anderson poked the ball toward third, but Crede ranged quickly to field it and retire Anderson for the final out.
After Erstad’s double, Garland retired 10 of the next 11 batters. Guerrero was the only Angel to reach safely during that span, thanks to his hard grounder that struck the outside of Garland’s right foot.
The Angels finally solved Garland in the sixth. Pesky No. 9 hitter Adam Kennedy poked an opposite-field single to left.
With a five-run lead, Garland still was obsessed with keeping Kennedy close, throwing to first several times. But Garland threw a belt-high 2-2 pitch that Orlando Cabrera hit over the left-field fence to cut the Sox’s lead to 5-2.
Garland came back to strike out Guerrero on a low 81-m.p.h. pitch, with Pierzynski pumping his fist before rolling the ball back to the mound.
The fans, still incensed from Wednesday’s controversy, yelled for Guerrero to run to first. But home-plate umpire Ted Barrett, a former amateur boxer, pumped his fist several times to the Angels’ bench to indicate Guerrero was out.
For the third time in six postseason games, the Sox scored in the first inning.
Scott Podsednik set the tone by hitting an 0-2 pitch off Angels starter John Lackey into right field for a single and moved to second on Iguchi’s sacrifice.
Jermaine Dye followed by extending his postseason hitting streak to five games with a double to right-center, scoring Podsednik.
Before the game, general manager Ken Williams lectured reporters about preseason assumptions that the Sox were reverting to a “small ball” attack.
Konerko backed up Williams by ripping his first ALCS home run over the fence in left-center to give the Sox a 3-0 lead their biggest lead since beating Boston 14-2 in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
The homer was Konerko’s third of the postseason.
It also provided a huge comfort zone for Garland, who spoke aloud about concerns over being sharp after his extended layoff.
In the process, the Sox rediscovered the art of clutch hitting that deserted them in the first two games of the ALCS. In the third, Iguchi hit a single and Dye worked Lackey for a walk.
After a Konerko strikeout, designated hitter Carl Everett poked an opposite-field single down the left-field line to score Iguchi.
In the fifth, Iguchi hit a one-out double to left center and scored on Konerko’s two-out single.