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Reliving 2005: The Last White Sox/Astros Playoff Matchup

by Adam Kaplan

Let’s go back 16 years. It was a year where Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols won MVPs, Justin Upton was the first pick in the draft, and a time where only four teams per league made the playoffs. It was also the last time the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros played each other in the playoffs. Despite the Astros moving from the National League to the American League in 2013, 2021 will mark the subsequent series where the Sox face the Astros since winning the 2005 World Series, thanks in large part to a significant playoff drought on the South Side. As the #3 seed in the AL, Chicago prepares to face the #2 seed in the AL in Houston, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the 2005 World Series when the White Sox last faced the Astros, and where many of us witnessed the only White Sox World Series championship in our lifetime.

Despite a tumultuous September, the Chicago White Sox won 99 games in 2005, good for the best record in the American League. The team was led in large part to an excellent rotation consisting of Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras, and Freddy Garcia. Despite losing eventual Hall of Famer Frank Thomas for most of the season, the Pale Hose lineup still had some pop in it thanks to White Sox legend first baseman Paul Konerko, right fielder Jermaine Dye, third baseman Joe Crede, and shortstop Juan Uribe. The top of the order consisted of former Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Scott Podsednik, who swiped 59 bags that year, and second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, who didn’t do anything great, but did a lot of things very well. The Pale Hose were managed by outspoken Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen.

On the other hand, the Houston Astros won 89 games in 2005, earning the NL Wild Card spot. They were also led by an excellent rotation consisting of veterans Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, as well as an in-his-prime and NL Cy Young contender Roy Oswalt. The heart of their lineup was led by the Killer B’s – a colloquial nickname made up of first baseman Lance Berkman, second baseman and eventual Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, left fielder Chris Burke, and utility infielder Jeff Bagwell. The Astros had speed of their own including their center fielder Willy Taveras and shortstop Adam Everett, who swiped a combined 55 bags in 2005. The Astros were managed by veteran managerial journeyman Phil Garner.

The White Sox made it to the World Series by sweeping the 2004 World Series champs, the Boston Red Sox, in the ALDS and then defeated the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 in the ALCS, most notably by having Buehrle, Garland, Garcia, and Contreras, respectively, all pitch complete games in the final 4 games of the series. Further, Game 2 of the series is notable because Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski reached first on a questionable dropped third strike call in the bottom of the ninth in a game tied 1-1 with two outs in the inning. Pablo Ozuna pinch ran for Pierzynski, stole second, and then the next batter, Joe Crede, doubled scoring Ozuna; not only did the Sox win the game 2-1, but they also wouldn’t lose a game for the remainder of the playoffs (spoiler alert).

The Houston Astros made it to the World Series by first defeating the Atlanta Braves 3-1 in the NLDS, and then their NL Central rivals and a team managed by Tony La Russa, the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-2 in the NLCS. Roy Oswalt ended up earning NLCS MVP honors by going 7 IP, 6 K, 1 ER, and earning a Win in each of his two starts in the series.

GAME 1: Jose Contreras vs. Roger Clemens (U.S. Cellular Field)

Clemens only ended up pitching 2 innings in this game due to a hamstring injury, causing Wandy Rodriguez to pitch 3.1, and took the official L for the game. Meanwhile, Contreras pitched 7 innings giving up 3 ER and striking out 2.

Jermaine Dye began the scoring by hitting a solo home run off of Clemens in the bottom on the first. Mike Lamb tied the game the very next inning by hitting a solo dinger of his own off of Contreras.

The White Sox would regain the lead in the bottom of the second inning off of Clemens. After consecutive singles from DH Carl Everett and CF Aaron Rowand, AJ Pierzynski hit a sac fly to bring home Everett. Two batters later, Juan Uribe doubled which brought AJ around to score. Sox retook the lead 3-1.

Though this lead would not last long, because in the very next inning, Lance Berkman hit a double off of Contreras, which ends up scoring Adam Everett and Craig Biggio. After two and a half innings, the game is tied 3-3.

After an injury to Clemens, Wandy Rodriguez comes into the game. He does well in the third inning, but the Sox would take the lead from Wandy in the fourth thanks to a Joe Crede solo home run. Sox now lead 4-3 and would never relinquish it for the remainder of the game. Though in the bottom of the eighth, Scotty Pods would hit an insurance run when he triples off of Astros reliever Russ Springer, scoring AJ. Sox win Game One 5-3.

WP: Jose Contreras
LP: Wandy Rodriguez
SV: Bobby Jenks

GAME 2: Mark Buehrle vs. Andy Pettite (U.S. Cellular Field)

A Mark Buehrle versus Andy Pettitte duel is quite the match-up; a face-off between borderline Hall of Fame southpaws. Both pitch pretty well in this game, though the Astros certainly struck Buehrle much more than the Sox struck Pettitte. Though in the end, Game 2 ended up being a slugfest decided by the bullpens.

The Astros struck first off of Buehrle when 3B Morgan Ensberg hit a home run to lead off the second inning. The Sox would take the lead in the bottom on the second off of Pettitte thanks to three consecutive singles from Rowand, Pierzynski, and Crede, the latter of which recorded an RBI by bringing home Rowand. The next batter, Juan Uribe, would give the Sox their first lead of the game by hitting a sac fly to score AJ. Good Guys up 2-1.

Astros would tie the game the very next inning from a sac fly of their own. After a triple from Willy Taveras, Berkman hit a sacrifice off of Buehrle to make the game 2-2. Houston would add two more runs, both off of Buehrle, in the top of the fifth inning. After a double from catcher, and future Detroit Tigers manager, Brad Ausmus, and a single three batters later from Taveras, Lance Berkman again comes through for the Astros by hitting a double and brought both baserunners to score. Astros now have the lead 4-2.

Now the fun begins.

Reliever Dan Wheeler replaced Andy Pettitte and begins to pitch the bottom of the seventh. Joe Crede begins the inning by popping out. Then Juan Uribe doubles only to see Scotty Pods strike out right after him. Wheeler has two outs and a man on second. Tadahito Iguchi draws a walk, and then Wheeler hits Jermaine Dye. The bases are now loaded with two outs with Paul Konerko at the plate. The legendary Sox first baseman then does this:

The Sox now lead the Astros 6-4.

But wait, there’s more.

Rookie Bobby Jenks comes into the game in the ninth to get his second save in as many games in the World Series. Though the Astros have other plans. After a single by Jeff Bagwell to lead off the inning, Jenks strikes out right fielder Jason Lane. Jenks then walks Chris Burke, but forces a ground out from Ausmus, though the catcher does move the runners. Bobby Jenks is one out away from closing Game 2 but has runners on second and third to contend with. Garner sends Jose Viscaino to pitch hit for SS Adam Everett, and then this happens:

The game is now tied 6-6. Neal Cotts replaces Jenks and gets the next batter, Mike Lamb, to fly out to left.

The Sox now have three more outs to score a run and win the game before fans get free baseball and now face Houston’s shut down closer Brad Lidge. Juan Uribe leads off the inning and flies out to center. Sox speedster Scotty Pods is now at-bat. Maybe he can get to first somehow, steal second, and allow someone like Jermaine Dye or Paul Konerko to hit him in. Instead, Scotty the hottie does this:

After not hitting a home run throughout 162 games in the regular season, Scott Podsednik hits his second home run in the playoffs, this one for a game-winner. As Hawk would say, “You can puuuuut it on the board, yyyyyyyes!”

The Sox are now up 2 games to 0 on the Astros as the series heads to Houston.

WP: Neal Cotts
LP: Brad Lidge

GAME 3: Jon Garland vs. Roy Oswalt (Minute Maid Park)

After an incredible regular season and NLCS MVP honors, Roy Oswalt picked a helluva time to have one of his worst games of the season. Sox ended up roughing up Oswalt pretty good while the Astros did a pretty good job scoring runs while Garland was on the mound.

The Astros began the scoring when, tell me if you’ve heard this before, Lance Berkman knocks in Craig Biggio to make it 1-0 after one full inning. Houston would add to their lead in the bottom of the third, again off of Garland. Adam Everett singles and Oswalt eventually sacrifices him to second. The next man up is Craig Biggio who singles in Everett. After a Lance Berkman single moves Biggio over to third, Morgan Ensberg hits another single scoring Biggio. Bad Guys are now up 3-0. The next inning, Mike Lamb hit a solo home run off of Garland and Houston extends their lead 4-0.

However, the game now heads into the fifth inning where things start to turn around for the Sox and fall apart for Oswalt. Joe Crede leads off the innings and puts the Sox on the board 4-1.

Next batter Juan Uribe singles and pitcher Jon Garland (ugh, NL rules) strikes out. The Sox then hit three straight singles from Scotty Pods, Iguchi, and Dye, respectively, with the latter two each hitting in a run. The score is now 4-3 Bad Guys with only one out. Paul Konerko flies out, but then AJ Pierzynski hits a double scoring both Iguchi and Dye. Good Guys now have their first lead of the game 5-4. After a walk by Aaron Rowand and Oswalt hitting Crede, Juan Uribe comes to bat with the bases loaded and two outs, and does this:

Hits a fly ball to right to end the inning.

Juan Uribe has had a solid World Series so far, but sometimes players get out. It happens.

Both Jon Garland and Roy Oswalt would pitch into the seventh; however, after Oswalt walks the lead-off man Konerko, Phil Garner replaced him with Russ Springer, who then gets out the next three Sox batters. Dan Wheeler replaced Springer and pitches a scoreless inning while Cliff Politte replaces Jon Garland and begins to pitch the eighth inning. While getting the first two batters in the inning out, Politte then issues a walk to Morgan Ensberg. Ozzie replaces Politte with Neal Cotts to get out of the inning, only to see him issue a walk to Mike Lamb. Ozzie immediately pulls Cotts (remember the days where relievers didn’t have to face a minimum of three batters?) to replace him with the Sox pre-Jenks closer Dustin Hermanson to face Jason Lane.

Lane hits a double off of Hermanson, scoring Ensberg and putting Lamb on third. Hermanson then strikes out Ausmus and the Sox head into the top of the ninth now tied 5-5.

Despite Konerko getting on base via a hit by pitch, the Sox don’t do much of anything at the top of the ninth, and now the Astros have a chance to walk it off at home. Guillen has the team’s fifth starter during the regular season, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez to start the ninth. After getting the lead-off man, Adam Everett, to pop out, El Duque walks Chris Burke. Hernandez attempts to pick off Burke, but an error causes Burke to land on second, who then immediately steals third. It’s now one out with a runner on third and the Astros just need one to score and win the game.

El Duque walks Craig Biggio, so now there are runners at the corners with only one out and Willy Tavares at the plate. In a huge at-bat, Orlando Hernandez strikes out Willy Taveras. The next batter is Lance Berkman, who the Sox smartly intentionally walk. If you’ve been reading this far, you know how dangerous Berkman has been in this World Series. So now, the bases are loaded, there are two outs, the game is tied, and Morgan Ensberg comes to bat. Then, this happens:

Now we get free baseball.

Without the rule that extra innings start with a runner on second base, both the Sox and Astros struggle to score runs in the later innings.

Brad Lidge pitches a scoreless tenth, while Chad Qualls pitches a scoreless eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth for Houston. Luis Vizcaino pitches a scoreless tenth, Bobby Jenks pitches a scoreless eleventh and twelfth, and Damaso Marte pitches a scoreless thirteenth for the Pale Hose. It’s now the top of the fourteenth inning with Ezequiel Astacio on the bump for Houston, and I’m sad to report at this time that a younger MillennialSoxFan is long asleep. While Jermaine Dye leads off the inning with a single, Paul Konerko ruins it by hitting into a double play in the next at-bat. For the next batter, Ozzie replaces AJ with utility infielder Geoff Blum, who promptly does this:

Astacio then basically implodes by allowing singles to Rowand and Crede, and then walks Uribe. Back up catcher Chris Widger then draws a bases-loaded walk to add an insurance run. Phil Garner replaces Astacio with Game 1 loser Wandy Rodriguez, who promptly strikes out Scotty Pods. The game is now 7-5 Good Guys heading into the bottom of the 14th.

Damaso Marte comes back out for this inning and the Sox defense decides to make it interesting. There are now runners on the corners, but two outs, and Ozzie brings in the great Mark Buehrle to get the final out against Adam Everett. Does he do it?

Yes, yes he does. After a long and grueling game, Buehrle saves Game 3. Sox win the game 7-5 and are now one more win from becoming world champs.

WP: Damaso Marte
LP: Ezequiel Astacio
SV: Mark Buehrle

GAME 4: Freddy Garcia vs. Brandon Backe (Minute Maid Park)

Brandon Backe pitched 26 games for the Houston Astros in 2005. Backe started Game 4 against the Braves in the NLDS, Game 4 against the Cardinals in the NLCS, and was now starting Game 4 against the White Sox in the World Series. Meanwhile, Garcia had pitched the ALDS clinching Game 3 against Boston and pitched Game 4 against the Angels in the ALCS. Both pitchers, and both teams frankly, pitched their asses off in this game.

Both Garcia and Backe pitched 7 scoreless innings, and each struck out 7 batters. As such, the beginning of this game was a pitcher’s duel. The first drama came at the bottom on the sixth against Garcia. Taveras singles after Biggio grounded out. Lance Berkman drew a walk and then both he and Taveras steal a base while Ensberg bats. Garcia now has a runner on third and second with one out but strikes out Ensberg. Ozzie decides to intentionally walk Mike Lamb so that Garcia can strike out Jason Lane to end the threat and the inning. Garcia had himself a pretty good game, and you can check out the highlights of it below:

The Sox decided to add some drama against Backe in the top of the seventh. After Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski get out, Aaron Rowand singles and Joe Crede hits a double. Now it’s Backe who has a runner on second and third with two outs. However, he strikes out Juan Uribe and that threat and inning are over as well.

The crux of the game comes at the top of the eighth. Brad Lidge replaces Backe. Technically, the pitcher spot is the first batter, but Ozzie pitch hits Willie Harris for Freddy Garcia. Harris singles and then Scotty Pods sac bunts him to second. Harris then moves to the third after a groundout from pinch hitter Carl Everett. While there’s a runner on third, Lidge only has more out to contend with. However, Jermaine Dye has other plans. He comes to bat and singled in the only run of the game.

Paul Konerko strikes out in the next at-bat, but the Sox are up 1-0 and are 6 outs away from becoming the champions of the world.

Cliff Politte tries his best to give Houston some runs in the bottom of the eighth but ultimately gets out of the inning unscathed. Ozzie brings in his stud closer Bobby Jenks to get the final three outs of the inning.

  • First batter Jason Lane: single. Bad start to the inning.
  • Second batter Brad Ausmus, sac bunt to move Lane to second base.
  • Third batter Chris Burke: On a 2-2 count, the ball is popped up into foul territory. In most games, the at-bat would continue, but Juan Uribe had other plans.

There is a runner on second, but two outs in the inning. The Astros are down to their last batter. With the pitcher spot coming to bat, Garner sends in Orlando Palmeiro to the plate. Palmeiro hits the ball on the ground. It looks like it’s going to go up the middle…

But Juan Uribe makes another spectacular defensive play. He picks up the slow roller, throws it to Paul Konerko and gets the out.

THIS GAME IS OV-AH! SOX WIN! SOX WIN! The Chicago White Sox not only win the game, but win the series 4-0 and become World Series champions.

WP: Freddy Garcia
LP: Brad Lidge
SV: Bobby Jenks

Despite their seeding and the anxiousness we fans may have, the 2021 White Sox are an excellent team. They have the talent to win it all. I hope this trip down memory lane is a good reminder of what the Chicago White Sox are not only capable of doing against the Houston Astros, but against the rest of the MLB.

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