A little controversy didn’t hurt, but the ending was as convincing as their dominant starting pitching.
The White Sox earned their first World Series berth since 1959 Sunday night in their typical crazy style with a 6-3 comeback victory over the Los Angeles Angels for the American League pennant.
The Sox eliminated the Angels 4-1 in their best-of-seven AL Championship Series as Jose Contreras allowed only five hits in pitching the Sox’s fourth consecutive complete game.
The Sox will open the World Series on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field against either Houston or St. Louis.
The five-day break will allow the Sox and their Series-starved fans to celebrate, recuperate and assess the madness that led to their conquest.
The Sox players were at the top of the dugout steps throughout Sunday’s game, aiming for a shot at a World Series championship that has eluded the franchise since 1917.
Sox pitchers limited the Angels to 11 runs in the five games. And the offense did its part by scoring four times in the final three innings Sunday.
The Sox scored the go-ahead run in the eighth with the help of the poster boy for controversy–A.J. Pierzynski.
Pierzynski hit a sharp grounder off reliever Kelvim Escobar, who tracked down the ball but tried to tag Pierzynski up the first-base line instead of throwing to first.
First-base umpire Randy Marsh called Pierzynski out on the tag, although Pierzynski and manager Ozzie Guillen immediately argued that Escobar touched Pierzynski with his glove while holding the ball in his bare right hand.
After Marsh consulted with home-plate umpire Ed Rapuano, the out call was reversed, prompting an argument from Angels manager Mike Scioscia and litter dumped onto the right-field warning track.
Closer Francisco Rodriguez came in for Escobar with Aaron Rowand, who had walked, on second and Pierzynski on first. Joe Crede then hit a soft grounder that second baseman Adam Kennedy dived to field in shallow center.
Third-base coach Joey Cora waved Rowand home, and Rowand’s head-first slide beat Kennedy’s off-balance, off-line throw to score the winning run.
Crede had tied the game in the seventh with a leadoff homer off Escobar.
Paul Konerko continued his clutch hitting with an RBI double off the right-field wall in the ninth as rare Southern California rain in October fell harder and chants of “Let’s Go White Sox” became louder among a sellout crowd of 44,712 at Angel Stadium.
Rowand capped the rally with a sacrifice fly.
With his Angels facing elimination, Scioscia made no secret of his intent to manage with the highest sense of urgency. He slipped Vladimir Guerrero from third to fourth in the batting order, trading places with Garret Anderson.
Anderson moved from left field to center to replace struggling 40-year-old Steve Finley, who was only 2-for-9 in the ALCS and had only 35 extra base hits during the regular season after slugging 36 home runs with Arizona and Los Angeles in 2004.
And Scioscia admitted before the game he would employ his bullpen as frequently as needed.
There were a couple of twists to the Angels’ approach. Their batters were more aware of Contreras’ split-finger fastball and dropping the barrels of their bats to try to lift the sinking pitch.
And at the request of starting pitcher Paul Byrd, the speed of each pitch wasn’t registered on the scoreboard.
The Sox, who displayed a lack of patience against Byrd in a Game 1 loss, didn’t administer much damage against him.
But with one out in the fifth, Juan Uribe pulled a double down the left-field line for his first extra-base hit of the series.
Scott Podsednik worked Byrd for walk, prompting Angels pitching coach Bud Black to visit the mound as reliever Scot Shields began to warm up.
Tadahito Iguchi swung weakly at Byrd’s first pitch for a weak fly to shallow left for the second out, but Jermaine Dye came through with a double to left center that gave the Sox a 2-1 lead.
Scioscia, backing up his pre-game intent, pulled Byrd after 4 2/3 innings. Shields stopped the rally by inducing Konerko to fly out deep to left.
Contreras, meanwhile, wasn’t nearly as sharp as his Game 1 loss. Juan Rivera led off the third with a double down the left field line.
Contreras’ pickoff throw skipped into center field that moved Rivera to third, where he scored on Kennedy’s single to tie the game at 1-1. Guillen even visited the mound after a walk to Anderson. The advice seemed to work as Guerrero grounded into a force play.
Entering Game 5, the Sox’s starting pitchers had thrown a first-pitch strike to 88 of the 127 batters in the ALCS. But Contreras threw three consecutive balls to start the fifth before Kennedy reached safely on an infield hit.
Chone Figgins snapped a 1-for-15 slump by ripping a Contreras pitch down the right field line with Kennedy running on the pitch.
A fan reached over the low right field wall to grab the ball, and right field umpire Ron Kulpa immediately ruled a ground rule double.
But Scioscia quickly contended that Kennedy would have scored if the fan had not interfered. After a brief discussion, crew chief Gerry Crawford signaled Kennedy home for the tying run, and Figgins eventually scored on a sacrifice fly for a 3-2 Angels lead.