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Konerko's slam arrived apropos

Konerko's slam arrived apropos

CHICAGO -- On a night the sweet spots of Paul Konerko's and Scott Podsednik's bats warmed and dried out 41,432 like two blasts from a furnace, the most consequential swing of the White Sox's 7-6 victory in Game 2 Sunday was the one checked by Jermaine Dye.

It turned what could've been an obvious ball four from Houston reliever Dan Wheeler into another umpire-sparked dispute, which has been the Chicago White Sox currency this postseason.

Dye braked his swing on Wheeler's full-count pitch with two outs and two on in the seventh, and when plate umpire Jeff Nelson immediately indicated that the pitch had hit him, the bases were loaded and the muses again were calling the White Sox.

"The umpire told me to go to first. I'm not about to argue with him. So I went to first," said Dye, who confirmed what had been pretty clear immediately.

Wheeler's pitch had glanced off his bat, not his person. Considerably up the barrel, in fact.

"We got a break there," Dye said, "and made it count."

They always make it count.

Konerko was the one cashing in this one, following a pitching change by hammering Chad Qualls' first pitch into Grand Slam territory, fourth row of the left-field bleachers, to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead.

The first World Series Slam in White Sox history, giving new dad Konerko his "second best feeling of the week," wouldn't endure as the death blow against the resilient Astros.

That belonged to the Chicago left fielder who instantly earned a new nickname, as Scott "Of All People" Podsednik drilled the game-winner with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Summing up the feeling in his dugout prior to the second October homer by a guy who had none April-through-September, Konerko said, "We don't see a lot of balls off his bat that go over the fence. We were hoping he'd get on base and steal second, stuff he's done all year."

"But," Konerko added, "crazy things happen in the World Series. Everyone knows it."

That perception was endorsed at the end of a very tenacious seventh-inning at-bat by Dye. He had already fouled off one 3-and-2 pitch when Wheeler unleashed another fastball that sailed up and in.

Dye and Houston catcher Brad Ausmus both figured he'd just fought off another nasty pitch.


World Series Walk-Off Homers
Scott Podsednik's memorable homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to win Game 2 for the White Sox was the 14th such World Series blast.
Year
Player
Team
Opp.
Gm.
Inn.
Score
1949
Tommy Henrich
Yankees
Dodgers
1
9
1-0
1954
Dusty Rhodes
Giants
Indians
1
10
5-2
1957
Eddie Mathews
Braves
Yankees
4
10
7-5
1960
Bill Mazeroski
Pirates
Yankees
7
9
10-9
1964
Mickey Mantle
Yankees
Cardinals
3
9
2-1
1975
Carlton Fisk
Red Sox
Reds
6
12
7-6
1988
Kirk Gibson
Dodgers
Athletics
1
9
5-4
1988
Mark McGwire
Athletics
Dodgers
3
9
2-1
1991
Kirby Puckett
Twins
Braves
6
11
4-3
1993
Joe Carter
Blue Jays
Phillies
6
9
8-6
1999
Chad Curtis
Yankees
Braves
3
10
6-5
2001
Derek Jeter
Yankees
D'backs
4
10
4-3
2003
Alex Gonzalez
Marlins
Yankees
4
12
4-3
2005
Scott Podsednik
White Sox
Astros
2
9
7-6
"My initial reaction was it hit the bat," Ausmus said. "But the ball's moving 90 miles an hour. The pitch was up and in, and I think if it had hit him he would have been jumping around. His reaction was consistent with what you would expect from having it hit his bat."

And Dye's postgame reaction was consistent with that assessment.

"Right away, I thought I'd fouled it," he said. "But when I turned around, the ump told me to go to first. I barely nicked it; it was more like a glancing blow."

Not to the Astros, it wasn't.

"I thought the ball hit the bat," said Houston manager Phil Garner, who stopped only briefly to argue with Nelson on his way to the mound to make the pitching change. "I don't know what would have happened after that, but clearly I thought the ball hit the bat.

"I asked him [Nelson] to check the ball if it had a black mark, and the ball was already gone."

So was the next one, pretty soon. Konerko made that one disappear, the 18th slam in World Series history.

"Other than hitting a walk-off homer, it doesn't get much better than that," Konerko said. "Especially when it's a meaningful one that puts your team ahead.

"It's all about teamwork. I don't care if I don't get another hit this series, long as we win."

This is obviously a team to which you do not give fourth outs, or extra baserunners. They don't throw them back.

"Most of the season, we weren't getting that many breaks," Dye said. "In the second half, we started getting them. But when you get the breaks, you've got to count them -- and we've got guys who've been doing a great job of that."

To the White Sox, a break is like blood in the water to a shark.

They turned the penultimate play of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series into one of the most-discussed sequences in postseason history when Joe Crede followed the "caught" third strike pitch to A.J. Pierzynski with a winning double.

When Steve Finley's swing brushed Pierzynski's mitt while grounding into a double play in Game 4 of the ALCS, that became a converted break only when the White Sox, holding a slim 3-1 lead at that point, stretched out to an 8-2 victory.

Even before the pivotal phantom hit-batter Sunday night, the White Sox had capitalized on a couple of breaks for their first two runs. Andy Pettitte would have bequeathed a shutout to his bullpen in that seventh inning had two sloppily-played balls in the second not turned into two baserunners -- who were promptly turned into two runs.

Aaron Rowand singled through third baseman Morgan Ensberg's glove, then left fielder Chris Burke danced around under Pierzynski's fly and whiffed on it. Crede's single bagged one run and the other scored when second baseman Craig Biggio dropped Juan Uribe's pop up into an RBI forceout.

"Everybody is pulling in the right direction," Konerko summed up. "And that's the name of the game. You don't get 25 guys on the same page for eight and a half months for nothing. It takes that to win this whole thing."

Now it will take two more wins. And, maybe, a couple of more breaks just begging to be exploited.

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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