Buehrle overshadowed, not forgotten

Buehrle overshadowed, but not forgotten

ANAHEIM -- Almost every shred of attention coming from Wednesday's finish to Game 2 of the American League Championship Series has focused on catcher A.J. Pierzynski's ninth-inning strikeout for the third out that wasn't, home-plate umpire Doug Eddings' disputed call and the White Sox ensuing victory on Joe Crede's double off Angels reliever Kelvim Escobar.

Along the way, White Sox starting pitcher Mark Buehrle gets a paragraph or two in a story or maybe a 15-second highlight on the way to the big television finish. But it seems only fitting that Buehrle recorded the Angels' final out of the night on his own, catching Garret Anderson's weakly hit popup as he was running toward the home dugout in the top of the ninth, because the left-hander single-handedly kept the host squad in contention for the entire evening.

Buehrle's spectacular effort now defines the phrase "lost in the shuffle." The easy-going hurler has no real craving for the spotlight, though, especially with his team evening the best-of-seven series at one victory apiece.

"It's one of those things where we won the game, so it really doesn't bother me," said Buehrle, who improved to 2-0 in the postseason. "It doesn't really matter to me. The play will go down as one of the biggest calls in baseball history, and nobody really is going to know anything else.

"I got the job done and don't mind staying under the radar," Buehrle added.

Buehrle did the job against the Angels by throwing strikes and locating his pitches. After the game, he claimed that his changeup disappeared for a brief spot in the middle innings, but it returned to him in the seventh, eighth and ninth.

Of the 99 pitches Buehrle needed to finish off his fourth complete game of the season, 71 of those were in the strike zone. He made one mistake, a Robb Quinlan home run leading off the fifth, and pitched out of two other tight situations.

Later in the fifth, with Adam Kennedy on second and two outs, Chone Figgins lined out to a sprinting Jermaine Dye in right-center to end the inning. In the eighth, once again with two outs, Orlando Cabrera flew out to the wall in left with pinch-runner Jeff DaVanon on third to keep the game tied.

DaVanon replaced catcher Jose Molina, who singled to open the frame. With Jose Molina out of the contest, Josh Paul came into the game defensively at catcher in the eighth and ultimately played a huge role in the game's crazy ninth-inning ending.

After losing three of his final four starts during the month of August, Buehrle seemed to regain his form in September. He finished the 2005 season with a 2-1 record and 3.38 ERA over his last six starts, including an outing at U.S. Cellular Field against the Angels on Sept. 9 in which he allowed five runs on 10 hits over six innings.

Over his last three starts, Buehrle has given up just two earned runs and 12 hits in 23 2/3 innings, while walking only three. The difference, according to Buehrle, is the return of his complete pitching repertoire.

"I couldn't throw my cutter for strikes before, but now I have everything back," Buehrle said. "To me, it's a big pitch. It gets on the inside of the plate, and it opens up the outside for my sinker and my changeup.

"That pitch just makes me more efficient. But I'm just hitting a hot stretch. Right now, I don't have that one pitch that I can't throw."

A Game 6 start, if necessary, belongs to Buehrle. If the baseball gods are with the White Sox in Anaheim, Buehrle could be pitching for the South Siders' first trip to the World Series since 1959. But the left-hander has a better plan: Have the White Sox win all three games this weekend at Angel Stadium and have Buehrle pitch Game 1 of the World Series -- possibly against his hometown Cardinals. Buehrle certainly will get his fair share of notoriety if that scenario plays out.

But even with the controversy surrounding Wednesday's game, Buehrle's performance was not lost on everyone involved with the ALCS. At least, not on the White Sox side of the diamond.

"He was amazing," said Pierzynski of his batterymate. "To go that deep into a playoff game against that lineup, what did he give up, five hits and one run? He did what Buehrle does, and that's throw strikes and get us in the dugout and try and score some runs."

"Without getting corny, I like to think about certain things from time to time when you are allowed to," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper added of Buehrle. "I think [Wednesday's] game might have permanently etched Mark Buehrle's name in White Sox history and maybe even begin a legacy type of thing. It couldn't have happened at a better time or bigger moment."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.