Sox, Astros Ready to Go in World Series

Chicago hosts a World Series game for the first time since 1959, as the White Sox of the American League take on the National League's Houston Astros. Pitching is the prime weapon of both teams.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

The World Series opens tonight in Chicago with the White Sox facing off against the Houston Astros. NPR's Tom Goldman is covering the series. We found him just before the game at US Cellular Field on his Verizon phone. Hi, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN reporting:

Hi, Debbie. You found me out. Let's not talk about Verizon anymore, OK?

ELLIOTT: OK. So after last year's thrilling victory by the Boston Red Sox, we've got another hard-luck team in this one: the White Sox. But this isn't quite like last year, is it?

GOLDMAN: It's not and, you know, you could argue that nothing will match last year with the Red Sox ending their curse and their anguish. And actually, got a couple of good teams. I mean, it--you know, they have got some histories of their own.

ELLIOTT: Let's talk a little bit more about the Astros and the White Sox. The fans have to be very excited about this since it's something very new for both of these cities to be in the World Series.

GOLDMAN: Extremely excited--at least half of Chicago, because the other half loves the Chicago Cubs--is thrilled. This team has not been to the World Series since 1959. It has not won the World Series since 1917, and that's actually one year before the last time the Red Sox had won it before they won last year. So they definitely have some history there.

The Houston Astros simply have never been here. They've never been to a World Series in their 44-year history.

ELLIOTT: After such a long drought for both of these teams, what did they do to get here?

GOLDMAN: Well, what they did--I mean, Houston was close last year and the White Sox certainly were a good team, too. What they're doing better than anyone else is pitching. And that's really the story going into this--at least this first game of the World Series. In the American League Championship Series against the LA Angels, the White Sox had four different pitchers pitch an entire game. That means to the last out; no relief pitchers. And Debbie, that is rare in this era of specialization. As good as the White Sox pitchers are, Houston's pitching staff may even be better. They've got more dominant pitchers in Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt.

The thing that's going to determine who wins this World Series is the batting. Because, obviously, you've got to get runs and who--which team is going to break through against the other's outstanding pitching staff? Both of these teams play what the so-called experts like to call `smart ball.' And that means they get little hits. They bunt the ball. They sacrifice players around the bases. They move players around and advance them, so they kind of nickel and dime the other team and score runs that way. It's kind of a scrappy approach.

ELLIOTT: Briefly, Tom, off the field, the start of this World Series was supposed to be a new step in baseball's battle against steroids. Is that the case?

GOLDMAN: It was before Congress recently--the head of the union, Donald Fehr, said that we might have a new tougher steroid policy by the start of the World Series. Well, tonight is the start of the World Series and lo and behold, we don't have it. So that's not going to be news to a lot of critics who say that baseball has continuously dragged its feet on this issue. I think baseball would like to get to the World Series, have everyone forget about the whole steroid issue by just watching some great baseball.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Tom Goldman in Chicago. Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Debbie.

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