Swing. Don't miss.
If the looks on their faces and shrugs coming from the shoulders of the White Sox hitters were any indication, the plan against Wakefield is basically having no extraordinary plan at all.
It's see the ball, period. Hit the ball, period.
"You are facing a handful of factors up there," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who is 5-or-20 in his career against Wakefield. "There have been times over the last few years that you are as uncomfortable as you can feel out there. There are other times you can get some good swings. I don't know what makes each one of them or what the difference is."
The numbers aside, Wakefield always poses a challenge. He is 1-1 with a 6.57 ERA in two starts against the White Sox this season and 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 25 games (16 starts) against Chicago in his career. Wakefield is 0-3 with a 9.92 ERA in six ALDS games with Boston, but 5-1 with a 3.89 ERA in eight League Championship games.
"We'll see what happens tomorrow because a lot can happen," White Sox shortstop Juan Uribe said. "You just see the ball and try to put it in play. For some, it's easy and for some, it's difficult. I don't know how I am going to do."
Uribe has two hits, including a home run, in seven career at-bats against Wakefield. He has three RBIs. He didn't want to jinx himself by saying he has had some success against Wakefield but said he is optimistic about his chances.
White Sox center fielder Aaron Rowand, who has 10 hits in 14 at-bats against the knuckler wasn't nearly as modest, but with good reason. He has hit four home runs and has eight RBIs against Wakefield.
His reason for success against the knuckler? Nothing in particular.
"I can't explain why," Rowand said. "We had a couple of knuckleball pitchers that I hit well in the Minor Leagues. You just see if you can get it in the strike zone and hit it. Other than that, there's not much to trying to hit a knuckleball other than trying not to swing at bad pitches."
Designated hitter Carl Everett, who once said hitting a knuckleball is like trying to catch a fly with chopsticks, didn't seem too concerned with what Wakefield would offer Friday. It didn't matter to Everett. He's determined to hit anything.
"I just go up swinging at it like it's a fastball," he said. "I'm aggressive, and I stay aggressive."
White Sox third baseman Joe Crede has his own approach to hitting a knuckleball and it must be working. He is 5-for-14 for his career against Wakefield.
"I like to take a couple of pitches and see if I can get the timing on it," he said. "Once you see it right away, you try to hit it and then you are pulling off the ball. Basically, you see it and try to hit it the other way."
As for Rowand, he expects a great effort from his team regardless of what opponent is on the mound -- and only one victory away from clinching the franchise's first postseason series win since the 1917 World Series. That said, he knows what to expect from Wakefield.
"He'll throw a lot of balls up there and at different speeds," he said. "Some fall off the table and end up being balls when they look like they are right there. Some look like they are going to drop down and it ends up being a strike. The most difficult part is trying to get a strike to hit."