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Buehrle looks to set pace in Game 2

Buehrle looks to set pace in Game 2

CHICAGO -- A very traditional fellow, Mark Buehrle has upheld a couple of them: the White Sox tradition for solid pitching, and left-handers' tradition for occasionally acting and speaking goofy.

Buehrle, for instance, has a personal tradition for bellyflopping on the tarp during U.S. Cellular Field rain delays -- something he promised to refrain from during the World Series.

And who can forget that when teammate Scott Podsednik landed on the Final Vote ballot for this summer's All-Star Game, Buehrle grabbed a field microphone and delivered a lengthy campaign speech to White Sox fans.

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He also is the one who opened a can of Chicago worms in June by suggesting a North Side pitcher might be throwing balls with illegal stuff on them. That prompted one of those pitchers, Greg Maddux, to ask, "And who is Mark Buehrle?"

Ahem. He is the one who will be starting Sunday's Game 2 of the World Series, as the White Sox repeat their dynamite Championship Series rotation and attempt to go up 2-0 after Saturday night's 5-3 victory.

But to the South Side, Buehrle has long been the left-hander who needs no introduction, a free spirit who speaks with passion and pitches with panache, having won 14-plus each of the last five seasons.

He also pitches with haste -- making him just what the weatherman ordered for Sunday's Game 2 of the World Series, expected to unfold in chill and rain.

"The faster you work, the better off you're going to be," noted Buehrle. "I just don't see any reason to go out there and waste time. Just get out there and throw the ball."

And -- one of Ozzie Guillen's favorite expressions -- throw the opposition under the bus. When Buehrle is on and his dazzling array of pinpointed pitches confounds batters, they have little chance to think and adjust -- because he's on the rubber when he gets the ball back and is ready to again let it fly.

Three of his 2005 starts were over in less than two hours. So, when asked what he expected from Buehrle, Guillen was apt to say, "Same thing we always do. A dinner reservation for 4 o'clock."

That's not going to work Sunday night, but Guillen's other expectations could be met: Buehrle working deep into the game, making batters earn their way on base, keeping the ball in the park.

Buehrle will be making his first start since Oct. 12, but his track record suggests that will not pose a problem. He made three starts during the season on extended rest (of six or more days) and went 3-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA.

He knows the Astros will force him to be at his best, because they don't swing from the heels and, rather than waste time waiting for specific pitches, hit them where they're thrown.

"They're scrappy," Buehrle said, "and they don't try to do too much. They put the ball in play. When guys get on, they hit and run, steal, distract the pitcher. They go out and do everything they can to produce a couple of runs."

Buehrle can produce the off-button. He did that to the Angels in Game 2 of the ALCS, which suddenly turned into the first of four consecutive complete games when Joe Crede's RBI double in the bottom of the ninth sent everyone home.

Chicago pitching coach Don Cooper figures that performance formally introduced the 26-year-old southpaw to America -- and to Greg Maddux.

"I think that game might have permanently etched Buehrle's name in White Sox history and maybe even begun a legacy type of thing," Cooper said. "It couldn't have happened at a better time or a bigger moment."

Or, Guillen added, to a more deserving man.

"I think I said early last year that if you've got 25 guys come to the ballpark every day the way Mark Buehrle shows up, it's going to be fun to manage," the Chicago manager said. "Hopefully, with this playoff and the World Series, people will give him the recognition. I think this kid is great."

Buehrle also is the reason the White Sox are here. Not just in the World Series, but here.

He was the starting and winning pitcher in the 2005 All-Star Game, the victory that endowed the American League entry with the home-field edge in the World Series.

Buehrle personifies that home-field advantage: Including his first two postseason outings, he has lost two of 19 U.S. Cellular Field starts this year.

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

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