World Series Fortunes, Fears for Houston Astros

The Houston Astros and the Chicago White Sox will play game three of the Major League Baseball World Series Tuesday night — the first-ever World Series game played in Texas. Noah Adams talks to Tom Goldman about the fortunes and fears of the Houston Astros, who have lost two games in a row in the best-of-seven series.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Noah Adams.

The Houston Astros try to get back on track in the World Series tonight. They trail the Chicago White Sox two games to none. It will be the first World Series game ever played in Texas. And as part of the excitement among the hometown fans, there is anxiety about the relief pitching. And joining us from Houston is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

Tom, remind us, it takes how many games to win the World Series?

TOM GOLDMAN reporting:

It takes four out of seven games, Noah. Chicago is halfway to its first World Series championship since 1917.

ADAMS: And there in Houston, where you are, there's a lot of talk about relief pitching: sports radio; I've seen some blogs; newspapers are talking about it. What's the deal with the bullpen?

GOLDMAN: Definite concern, Noah. Houston relief pitchers in game two gave up two big home runs. There was the grand-slam home run by Paul Konerko that gave Chicago the lead. And then the big one: In the bottom of the ninth inning, a light-hitting outfielder named Scott Podsednik hit a home run, and it gave Chicago a dramatic 7-to-6 victory, what we call a walk-off home run, where they...

ADAMS: I love that phrase, `walk-off home run.'

GOLDMAN: Yeah. They just all walked off.

ADAMS: `Go home.' Yeah.

GOLDMAN: They were actually jumping. They were jumping off, and they were very excited. The home run in the seventh inning by Konerko--he's the best power-hitter on the White Sox, so it was sort of understandable. The Podsednik home run--he didn't hit a home run in the entire regular season, and he was facing one of the most feared relief pitchers in the game, Houston's Brad Lidge.

ADAMS: Brad Lidge is called Brad "Lights Out" Lidge, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GOLDMAN: Yeah, that tells you a little something.

ADAMS: Yeah. Now they're talking about changing his name to "Lights On" Lidge?

GOLDMAN: (Laughs) Exactly. Yeah, he has been absolutely dominating, probably the most dominant relief pitcher, what we call a closer, the guy who comes in the last inning to close things down. And--but he's having some trouble. The last batter he faced before Scott Podsednik was Albert Pujols in game five of the National League championship series. And, of course, Pujols hit a pitch from Brad Lidge about five miles--they didn't exactly measure it--to win the game for the Cardinals. So in the span of two batters, Pujols and then Podsednik, the previously invincible Lidge looks very vulnerable right now.

ADAMS: You know, on television, they always have that close-up of the pitcher's face as the ball goes over the wall.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ADAMS: So Lidge there--it always happens--loses his winning aura, that mojo. That magic just go--drains from his face, right?

GOLDMAN: It's amazing. That, as you mentioned, Noah, is really critical, the aura of invincibility. You know, these relief pitchers, they are the hardest-throwing pitchers. They come in for a brief period of time. And part of their effectiveness is in their ability to intimidate batters. And now I think it's safe to say that every White Sox batter has a right to think, `If Scott Podsednik can beat Brad Lidge, I can, too.'

ADAMS: Yeah. And, in the meantime, this really is the first World Series game ever played in Texas?

GOLDMAN: It certainly is. You know, it's hard to believe, I think, because we have this sense of Texas being a big sports state. But, really, most of that perception is because of football. You know, since 1962, when the Astros began, they haven't been toiling in obscurity exactly, but, you know, baseball's not as big as football down here.

ADAMS: The starting pitcher, before we see Mr. Lidge, is Roy Oswalt, and he's their best, right?

GOLDMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. Arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball right now.

ADAMS: OK. And we'll see what happens. Thanks.

NPR's Tom Goldman talking with us from Houston.

GOLDMAN: Thanks, Noah.

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