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Sox in seven

To all who say this year’s World Series will be anything but “worth watching,” go watch football and leave me alone to watch what will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most even-matched Series in recent memory. Both the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros have had slumps as well as triumphs throughout the regular season, and have each reached the Fall Classic relatively unscathed throughout the playoffs.

Each has remarkable story lines. Chicago hasn’t been to the Series since 1959, forty years after the infamous Black Sox Scandal, where “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and his cronies allegedly threw the 1919 World Series to the Hall of Fame outfielder Edd Roush (look him up) and his Cincinnati Reds. The Sox haven¹t brought home a championship to the South Side since 1917. In fact, Chicago has not seen a baseball title in 175 collective
seasons (Cubs, 88 including 2005).

The Astros have never been this deep into October baseball. Since being incepted into the National League in 1962 as the Colt .45’s (Oe62-64), Houston has claimed seven division championships and two wild card crowns.

The `Stros will try to become the fourth consecutive Wild Card turned World Champion, joining the Anaheim Angels of 2002, the Florida Marlins of 2003 and the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

Never mind their futile history or the unexplainable patterns. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to predicting the winner of the 2005 Series, all bets are off this October.

Nevertheless, for kicks, I’ll take a stab at the victor and say the White Sox will become the second consecutive team to end an 80-plus-year title drought. They won’t be as dominant as the other Sox were last year, as they sent the Cardinals to the off-season in four games, but Chicago will take care of the Astros in seven games.

I grew up watching and often idolizing Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. As much as I would like to see the Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker of my generation (remember, I’m 22) win a title, I just don¹t see it happening.
Each pitching staff has been nothing short of dominating this year. Not just in the postseason. This year. Houston sports the second-lowest earned run average in baseball with 3.51, only two hundredths of a point below the Cards and one tenth of a point ahead of the third-place White Sox (3.61).

Unfortunately, for the Astros, the Chicago staff’s ERA is more than a full run less in October (2.50), as they humiliated the Angels’ hitters night after night.

With five potential aces in their rotation, Jon Garland, Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia and defunct New York Yankees Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez, the Sox are a tough task for any lineup.

No, they don’t have the postseason experience that Houston’s Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, also Yankee drop-outs, have, but they have the thirst of the underdog – yes, a team who won 99 regular season games was an underdog – and manager Ozzie Guillen will not hesitate to stick with his young guns, much like he did in the ALCS. Buehrle, Garland, Garcia and Contreras pitched four straight shutouts to dispose of the Angels and duplicate the magic of the 1966 World Champion Baltimore Orioles.

Working the majority of the postseason, Brad Lidge, Chad Qualls, are not nearly as rested as Chicago’s bullpen who, with the exception of 2/3 innings pitched from Neal Cotts, has not pitched since tangling with the Red Sox nearly two weeks ago.

For arguments sake, say the pitching staffs cancel each other out. Can the Astros offense compare with the bats of the White Sox? Sure, in the same sense that the drink-ability of sewage compares with that of Poland Spring’s water. Just like the taste of sewage, the Houston offense has left many of their own pitchers with awful tastes in their mouth, often in the form of a 1-0 loss.

With Paul Konerko leading the way for Chicago, clubbing 40 home runs in the regular season and four in the postseason, all the Sox will need to do is make sure leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik and second baseman Tadahito Iguchi find first base before the slugger comes to bat.

Should Chicago rely on and receive the three-run homer that has gotten them through their first 170 games, it may be all they will need to surpass Houston.

The Astros owned the fifth-worst batting average in baseball, hitting .256 en route to scoring 4.3 runs per game. Compared to the White Sox’ .262, and 4.6, it doesn¹t look so bad. Unfortunately, for the Astros, the White Sox, who hit 200 home runs this season, (39 more than Houston) will send seven to eight right-handed hitters to the plate every night. That will prove to be costly when Game Nos. 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) are played in homer-happy Minute Maid Park.

Can Houston continuously bounce back from multiple multi-run aerial attacks?

No.

Who knows? I could be wrong. And that sewage water just might begin to look inviting.

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