|"I'd like to thank the home plate ump for this opportunity..."
The ghosts of the 1919 Black Sox must be working overtime to atone for their past transgressions, blinding the home plate umps in not one but two key calls this post season. First there was the ball deemed “dropped” in game two of the ALCS vs. the Angels, which allowed Pierzynski to take first and for the inning to continue, giving Chicago the opportunity to knock in the winning run – which they did. Of course, at every possibly angle other than the ump’s, it was clear that the ball did not hit the dirt before landing in the catchers glove. Bitch as they may, managers find that very few calls are debatable after the umps lay down their figurative gavels. After tonight, Scioscia may want to give Garner a call, or, on second though, a condolence card – read on:
By the bottom of the seventh, the Astros were on top 4-2, thanks in part to a nice homer by Ensberg. Garner pulled Pettitte, who had really pitched quite nicely (making the end of this story all the more saddening), and replaced him with Wheeler. Wheeler gave up a double to Uribe and a walk to Iguchi before facing Jermaine Dye, who showed his muscle last night with a solo shot. Dye worked the count to a 3-2 when an inside pitch appeared to come close to hitting him. Notice that I never said it actually hit him. This, of course, is because it did not hit him. Upon replay of the pitch, it is clear from any angle that the ball simply hit Dye’s bat - - in other words, a foul ball. The home plate umpire, however, signaled that Dye had been hit and awarded him first base.
With the bases loaded, Wheeler surrendered the mound to Qualls. Now this is a truly unfortunate situation for a pitcher to inherit in any game, much less the World Series, much less against Konerko. And after the frustration of the call on Wheeler moments before, I’m going to presume that composure was the last thing on Qualls’ brain. I don’t think there was a simple ‘out’ for the Astros at this point, and Konerko knew it as well, positively pouncing on the very first ball Qualls served up. Long story short – Konerko goes yard for a grand salami, effectively putting his team on top and crushing poor Pettitte, who sat stone-faced on the bench, simultaneously.
I assumed the drama would end there. After all, it was the bottom of the seventh, the Sox were up, and they still had Jenks in the pen. The Astros had a smidge more gas left in the tank, though, and managed to tie it up using Jenks’ sub-par stuff to their advantage before Lidge blew it in the bottom of the ninth. Podsednik, Mr. Zero Home Runs in the Regular Season, served up a big “L” to Lidge (the “L” is for “loss”, not for “Lidge”, that would just be silly) with a huge game-winning homer that made all those hours in the rain worthwhile…for his team, anyway. The Astros weren’t pleased, I’m sure.
Bottom line? Both of these teams play hard, their pitching is very comparable, and they are even well-matched defensively. So why is Houston having a hard time getting the better of Chicago? When it comes down to it, the Sox are just that much more clutch, they have that much more heart, and, apparently, have that much more luck to go all the way.
"What the heck did I just do?! Oh...a home run...I've heard of those before..."