CHICAGO – Sleep? Who needs sleep? Certainly not the Los Angeles Angels.
The travel-weary champions of the American League West, running on adrenaline after two all-night flights, opened the American League Championship Series with a 3-2 victory over the well-rested Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Angels used a familiar formula in beating the White Sox – a couple of manufactured runs, good starting pitching, and excellent bullpen work.
Winning pitcher Paul Byrd, once rescued off the waiver wire by former Philadelphia general manager Ed Wade, delivered six innings of two-run ball while working on short rest.
The right-hander handed off to whip-armed Scot Shields in the seventh. Shields and closer Francisco Rodriguez teamed on three scoreless innings to ice it.
The win capped a frenzied 48-hour stretch for the Angels. They played Sunday night in New York, then flew to the West Coast to play again Monday night before flying to Chicago.
“These last 48 hours have been a blur,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
The Angels didn’t arrive in Chicago until after sunrise on Tuesday morning.
“We’ve had a couple of red-eye flights,” Byrd said. “I don’t know if we’re delirious or what, but no one has complained. We just play.”
Byrd had no problem pitching on three days’ rest.
“I’m a control pitcher,” he said. “I don’t rely on great velocity anyway. It wasn’t a big deal to me. I can’t say enough about our bullpen. They did a great job picking me up.”
Shields got one of the biggest outs of the game when he retired 40-homer man Paul Konerko with two men on to end the eighth.
White Sox starter Jose Contreras was sharp over 8 1/3 innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out four. He allowed a solo homer to Garret Anderson in the second inning. In the third, he gave up a pair of no-out singles to Steve Finley and Adam Kennedy. Both eventually scored, one on an infield hit and the other on a fielder’s choice.
Contreras may have been able to cut down Kennedy, but he opted to try for the double play at second. The Sox were unable to turn the double play, and Kennedy’s run proved to be the difference in the game.
“Jose did a tremendous job,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “We have no excuses. We didn’t execute well.”
Game 2 is tonight.
This ALCS has a different feel than recent years. What is it? Simple. Neither the New York Yankees nor the Boston Red Sox are in it. Those two A.L. East behemoths played in the last two A.L. title series, and both were thrillers.
This is only the second time since 1997 that neither team has made the ALCS. The other time was in 2002, when the Angels beat Minnesota.
It’s no secret that Major League Baseball and Fox television executives, both hungry for drama and big ratings, probably would have liked a Red Sox-Yankees redux. But the White Sox and Angels – much to the delight of people such as White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf – made sure that didn’t happen.
“There is a part of the country that is west of the Hudson River,” Reinsdorf said before the game. “And I would think having some fresh faces in the postseason is a good thing.”
“Fresh” might not have been the best word to describe the Angels coming into the game. They did not arrive at their downtown Chicago hotel until 6:30 a.m. (CST).
For only the second time in major league postseason history, a team had to play the first game of a series with no day off following the conclusion of its last series. In 1981, the Dodgers opened the World Series at New York a day after winning the pennant in Montreal. The Dodgers lost Game 1 but went on to win the World Series.
“Should the game have been pushed back? Absolutely,” Scioscia said before the game. “But that’s not our call. We’re going to play by whatever schedule is handed down to us, and that’s just the luck of the draw. If they schedule these games at 1 in the morning, we’ll show up and play.”
Angels 3, White Sox 2
LOS ANGELES LEADS SERIES 1-0
1-ran for Everett in the 9th. E—Figgins (1). LOB—Los Angeles 4, Chicago 6. HR—Crede (1), off Byrd; GAnderson (1), off Contreras. RBIs—OCabrera (1), VGuerrero (1), GAnderson (1), Pierzynski (1), Crede (1). SB—Figgins (1), Erstad (1). CS—Podsednik (1), Pierzynski (1). S—Figgins. Runners left in scoring position—Los Angeles 2 (VGuerrero, SFinley); Chicago 2 (Dye, Konerko). Runners moved up—Rowand.
|Contreras L,0-1||8 1/3||7||3||3||0||4||102||3.24|
Byrd pitched to 1 batter in the 7th. Inherited runners-scored—Shields 1-0, Cotts 1-0. HBP—by Byrd (Rowand). T—2:47. A—40,659 (40,615).
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