White Sox Take Lead in Major League Playoffs

In the third game of the major league baseball playoffs, the Chicago White Sox took the lead early and held on to beat the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 at home. The Sox are now up two games to one in the best of seven series. The question is, can they hang on?

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Last night, the Chicago White Sox took the lead early on a Paul Konerko home run and held on to defeat the Los Angeles-Anaheim--whatever they call themselves--Angels at home, 5-to-2. The Sox are now up two games to one in the best-of-seven series. Our own Ron Rapaport joins us.

Morning, Ron.

RON RAPAPORT reporting:

Hi, Scott. Mrs. DiMaggio didn't have that problem, did she?

SIMON: I know. No, she sure didn't.

RAPAPORT: I mean, Joe, Vince and Dom never gotten in a place at the same time.

SIMON: At a pla--yes, they didn't have playoffs actually in those games and they certainly know all three never got into the World Series at the same time.

RAPAPORT: Great stuff.

SIMON: Listen, the Sox are two games up because of two complete games by pitchers. This is, oh, unusual.

RAPAPORT: Well, even the game they lost was simply brilliant, Scott. They've got three great pitching performances. So--and the Angels are hitting like--What?--174 or something over these three games. So if this pitching goes on like this, and one or two more favorable umpire calls, who knows what might happen?

SIMON: Gotta ask about that call, and I guess there's no secret about my sentiments, but it sure looked like Josh Paul had the ball in his glove.

RAPAPORT: Look, Scott, it did appear that he made the wrong call on the pitch that didn't appear to bounce before the catcher got it, but where Eddings really screwed up--home plate umpire Doug Eddings...

SIMON: Yeah.

RAPAPORT: ...was who I meant--by not making a call. If he'd said no play, Josh Paul would have tagged A.J. Pierzynski out, they might still be playing. But he didn't say anything, and that's the problem. You know, you've gotta make a call, and Pierzynski made a very heads-up play by running down to first base while the Angels couldn't figure out what was going on. It's not why they lost the game. Again, it goes back to that Sox pitching, but you hate to see the playoffs devolve into a situation like that. That one's headed straight for--What?--playoff lore, I guess.

SIMON: Yeah. I must say I was impressed by Mike Scioscia and the rest of the Angels saying, `No, that's not why we lost the game. We had plenty of opportunities to win, and that's not gonna be--that's gonna tell the story of this series as far as...'

RAPAPORT: No, no, Mike Scioscia was a class act as a catcher and was, at least publicly now. In the locker room afterwards, he let it all out. But the public face, and he said all the right things ...(unintelligible).

SIMON: That's what locker rooms are for, after all.

RAPAPORT: Yeah, right.

SIMON: Roger Clemens coming out of the bullpen, of all things, to pitch three innings of relief in that phenomenal 18-inning game last Sunday. I think I just--that was one of the great games, and I must say, even though it was only three innings, one of the great performances of all time.

RAPAPORT: Well, it was thrilling stuff. And, you know, what was funny is before the game finally ended in the 18th inning on the home run, Clemens was up there swinging for the downs.

SIMON: Yes, I know.

RAPAPORT: They said afterward--Lance Berkman said afterwards, if he'd have connected, they'd have just had to stop playing baseball. That would have been the end.

SIMON: OK, the 'Stros are tied 1-to-1 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Cardinals were statistically the best team in baseball, but the Astros sure looked good.

RAPAPORT: You know, all respect to the Cardinals, Scott. The record says they're best team; it's hard to argue with it. But I just love these Astros. I mean, they're the wild card in the playoffs in more ways than one, don't you think?--the way they got there, fighting to the last day, the way they beat the Braves in that 18-inning game. And now they're 1-to-1 and Clemens is going out there today against Matt Morris. The Cardinals had an easy time in the first run of the playoffs; this one's far from over.

SIMON: I don't want to spook anything, but I think the Sox look about 10 percent better right now than the Angels and the Astros look about 15 percent better than the Cardinals.

RAPAPORT: Well, I think the Sox look awfully, awfully strong with this pitching. Now Freddy Garcia pitches today.

SIMON: Today, yeah.

RAPAPORT: Their starting pitching, all of a sudden, is making all the difference and they're getting just enough hits. The first couple of games, they didn't do so well; yesterday, they did a little better. I'm still sticking with the Cardinals, but boy, oh, boy, if Clemens does a number today, you'd have to wonder whether Tony La Russa's team is gonna miss the series again.

SIMON: Huge college football game today in South Bend. University of Southern California Trojans have a 27-game winning streak in Pac-10 games. Notre Dame could put a stop to that because they've been very strong under Coach Weis.

RAPAPORT: Scott, it's been a long time since an SC-Notre Dame has been as big as this one. I mean, back-to-back national championships for the Trojans, and Charlie Weis, who just come over from the Patriots. This season's turned Notre Dame around in a hurry. I think SC has too much firepower. They gained over 700 yards last week, but they'll be standing and screaming in South Bend this afternoon, no question about that. It ought to be fun.

SIMON: Yeah, gold helmet against gold helmet. And we should explain that--oh, I guess we're running out of time. Thank you for reminding me. Ron, it's been wonderful talking to you.

RAPAPORT: Always a pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: We'll explain it next week when we will have the results in hand and look like geniuses. Ron Rapaport, also a columnist for The Chicago Sun Times and our sports commentator here on WEEKEND EDITION.

And you're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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