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White Sox headed to the sock hop


White Sox starter Jose Contreras threw Chicago's fourth complete game in a row. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
White Sox starter Jose Contreras threw Chicago's fourth complete game in a row. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Jim Salisbury Chicago Tribune

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Are you ready, Chicago? The World Series is finally coming your way again.

Long the ugly baseball stepchild in their own city, the Chicago White Sox won the American League pennant with a 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in Game 5 of the A.L. Championship Series on Sunday night.

The White Sox lost Game 1 of the series, then came back to win four straight, all with complete-game pitching performances. White Sox pitchers held the Angels to a .175 batting average.

“When you get pitching like that, it’s tough to lose,” said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, whose seven RBIs in five games earned him the series MVP award.

The Sox will host Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night against either Houston or St. Louis. It will be the first World Series game played in Chicago since 1959, when the White Sox lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Cubs, who have long owned the city’s heart, last went to the World Series in 1945. No Chicago team has won the Series since the White Sox in 1917. These White Sox certainly have the pitching to get the job done.

Sunday night’s clincher had a familiar look to it. Jose Contreras pitched a complete game, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski was involved in another controversial play that left the umpires huddling to review a call.

The umpires got the call right in the top of the eighth inning. White Sox third baseman Joe Crede, a hitting star all series, then came up and broke a 3-3 tie with a single up the middle off Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Earlier in the game, Crede had tied the score at 3 with a solo home run.

“You have to give the White Sox credit,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “They played a terrific series. They outplayed us and they deserve to go on.”

The White Sox rallied for the go-ahead run with two outs in the top of the eighth. Kelvim Escobar had struck out the first two batters of the inning before Aaron Rowand drew a full-count walk.

Up came Pierzynski, who had been a lightning rod for controversy all series. Remember, he was the guy who reached first base on the third strike that umpires ruled had been trapped by catcher Josh Paul with two outs and the score tied in the ninth inning of Game 2. The White Sox went on to win that game moments later on a hit by Crede.

With Rowand on first, Pierzynski hit a ball back at Escobar. The ball caromed off the pitcher and rolled toward the first-base line. Escobar picked up the ball with his bare hand and tagged Pierzynski with his glove hand.

First-base umpire Randy Marsh called Pierzynski out on the tag even though Escobar never put the ball in his glove. The White Sox immediately protested. The umpires convened and reversed Marsh’s initial call. Scioscia argued, but replays showed that the umpires were right.

Up came Crede, who worked the count full, then delivered the decisive RBI single into shallow center field.

The White Sox added two insurance runs in the ninth, one on Konerko’s double, the other on Rowand’s sacrifice fly.

Despite the obvious excitement of being so close to baseball’s ultimate event, the Sox approached Game 5 as if it were just another day at the ballpark.

“Everybody in the clubhouse is talking about fantasy football like a normal Sunday,” Konerko said before the game.

And as for their lead in the series? Well, no one was counting the pennant before it had been sewn.

“I don’t think anyone is complacent because we haven’t done anything yet,” Konerko said. “Our goal is to win the whole thing. It’s not like winning this series is going to accomplish everything we set out to do.”

The Angels fought back from a 2-1 deficit to go ahead, 3-2, in the fifth.

Their lead disappeared in the seventh, when Crede led off with a solo homer against Escobar. Crede put the Sox ahead the next inning, and now it’s off to the World Series for the first time in 46 years.

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