CHICAGO -- The game was on the line Friday night when Miami reliever Chad Qualls faced Paul Konerko leading off the ninth with the score deadlocked at 3.
Of course, this particular matchup also evokes historic memories for White Sox fans and players, with Konerko having launched a seventh-inning grand slam off Qualls in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series between the White Sox and Astros at U.S. Cellular Field.
Word over the past eight years was that Qualls might have tipped his pitch to Konerko in that tense situation, but the White Sox captain doesn't remember it playing out that way.
"If it was anything, it was more: 'This guy likes to come in and go after people. Be ready to hit. He likes to get ahead 0-1 with the fastball.' I don't think I ever faced him before that," said Konerko, who launched the first pitch from Qualls in '05. "If I remember back with their pitchers going into the series we were told, 'Hey, when relievers come in from the bullpen, be ready to swing the bat first pitch because they like to jump ahead and go to their other stuff.' It was kind of like that.
"Obviously, that was a big moment and something I won't forget in my career. It's not like I could ever face him without thinking about that. But that was a while ago. To his credit, he's still out there pitching in the big leagues and I guess I'm still out here playing in the big leagues, so it's kind of a cool thing that it's going on eight years ago now and we weren't rookies then either. It's a feather in both of our caps that we're out here still playing."
Qualls won the battle Friday, inducing a groundout from Konerko, leaving Konerko 0-for-3 in the regular season against the right-hander. But the blue seat in left field at U.S. Cellular, marking Konerko's grand slam in a game the White Sox won on Scott Podsednik's walk-off homer, shows he won the important postseason matchup.
"I probably only see it during batting practice because usually it's covered up during the game," Konerko said. "But when somebody pops off to me in batting practice like [Tyler] Flowers or somebody, I make sure to point out the seat to them."