After 46 years and an additional five days, the White Sox methodically scraped off layers of World Series rust Saturday night.
Jermaine Dye and Joe Crede supplied power with home runs. Crede also provided Gold Glove-caliber defense to halt two Houston rallies.
And rookie closer Bobby Jenks showed no signs of a 15-day layoff by striking out slugger Jeff Bagwell in a 100-m.p.h. showdown in the eighth inning to secure a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the World Series before a chilled but entertained crowd of 41,206 fans at damp U.S. Cellular Field.
(Part’s of this, was quoted from the Chicago Tribune)
“We’re not great at everything except starting pitching, but we’re good at everything else,” said Aaron Rowand, who delivered a single on a hit-and-run during a two-run second inning.
The Sox won their first World Series game since Game 5 of the 1959 Series, when they beat Hall of Fame left-hander Sandy Koufax 1-0 in Los Angeles.
They also sustained the momentum they built in the final week of the regular season. They have won 13 of their last 14 games and have won five straight postseason games since losing to the Angels in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
For all the hype surrounding the formidable starting rotations, Saturday’s pitching showdown didn’t materialize. Houston’s seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Roger Clemens, left after two innings because of a strained left hamstring that has nagged him since Sept. 3. It’s uncertain whether he will be ready for his potential Game 5 start Thursday.
“I’m going to treat it, and that’s all I can tell you from there,” said Clemens, who felt discomfort in the second inning.
Sox starter Jose Contreras earned his third victory in this postseason, but he needed help from Crede at third and from left-hander Neal Cotts and Jenks.
Contreras was pulled in favor of Cotts after allowing a leadoff double to rookie Willy Taveras to start the eighth, ending a string of 43 consecutive innings hurled by Sox starting pitchers.
But Cotts and Jenks were sharp in crucial situations. Cotts surrendered a single to Lance Berkman that moved Taveras to third with no outs. But Cotts, pitching for the first time since Oct. 11, struck out Morgan Ensberg and Mike Lamb.
Manager Ozzie Guillen then pulled Cotts in favor of Jenks to face Bagwell.
There were no secrets as Jenks, making his first appearance since Oct. 7, threw nothing but 99-100-m.p.h. fastballs in a memorable six-pitch at-bat.
Jenks got ahead 0-2, then threw two 100-m.p.h. fastballs that were high before throwing a 99-m.p.h. pitch that Bagwell fouled off.
Jenks then threw a 100-m.p.h. pitch past Bagwell for a third strike that left Jenks and catcher A.J. Pierzynski pumping their fists as they trotted off the field.
“For [Cotts and Jenks] to come in that situation with less than two outs, you can’t expect them to do that,” Pierzynski said. “It doesn’t happen. They threw strikes. That’s the biggest thing.”
And Pierzynski had no intention of calling for a breaking pitch to Bagwell, who played in only 39 regular-season games because of shoulder surgery.
“[Bagwell] wasn’t catching up [to the fastball],” Pierzynski said. “You got a guy throwing 100 m.p.h., I’ll take my chances most of the time. Bagwell is a great hitter, a Hall of Famer. Jenks is throwing 100 m.p.h., so you got to go with that. He hadn’t thrown a breaking ball yet, so we went with his strength.”
Jenks preserved the win for Contreras, who gave up three runs in the second and third and weaved out of trouble in the sixth and seventh thanks to Crede.
Crede’s defensive stops came with the tying run at third, and his homer in the fourth off rookie left-hander Wandy Rodriguez extended his habit of hitting clutch home runs.
But the Sox set the tone in the first, when Dye worked Clemens on a nine-pitch at-bat capped by an opposite-field homer over the right-field fence. The Sox added two more runs off Clemens during a long second inning.
The Sox capped the rally when Juan Uribe cranked a two-out double off Clemens.
“[Clemens] is probably the best pitcher in the past 50 to 60 years,” Pierzynski said. “You just have to match his intensity. It’s not an easy thing to do.”
The Sox added insurance in the eighth when Pierzynski hit a leadoff single and scored on a two-out triple by Scott Podsednik off Russ Springer. Podsednik’s hit snapped a streak of five hitless at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“We score just enough runs,” Pierzynski said. “We’ve done it all year. We can’t go out and win a game by 10 runs. We just don’t do it. It’s not our nature. We play games like this all year, and this is the way we have to play, and we enjoy playing these games.”