Quick starts fueling White Sox
First-inning damage allows starters to relax
ANAHEIM -- The famous ThunderStixx were mostly silent Saturday at Angel Stadium. Those boisterous Angels fans, aside from an occasional cheer and resounding boo, were hushed early as well.
For the second night in a row, the White Sox scored three runs in the first inning and finished the ninth inning with a victory -- this time, 8-2, in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
The quick-start White Sox are in control of the ALCS and need one more victory to advance to the World Series for the first time since 1959.
"When you get the top of the order on base, it just does something to the psyche of the offense," White Sox leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik said. "With the big bats we have in the middle of the lineup, it's like, 'Here we go,' and we give them opportunities to do their jobs. We have been fortunate in this series to get guys on early and Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, and Carl Everett have done their job."
The White Sox have outscored the Angels, 7-0, in the first inning of four ALCS games. Overall, the club has outscored opponents, 12-2, in the first inning in this postseason. "It's ideal when you are on the road, especially in the playoffs," Konerko said. "If you can jump on a team early, it seems to really make it feel like an even playing field."
The early scoring is not a new trend.
During the regular season, the White Sox outscored opponents, 121-68, in the first inning. The 121 runs in the first inning were the most in the Major Leagues and the most for the club since the 2000 season, when the White Sox scored 131 runs in the first inning.
"We feel comfortable because we see that our starting pitching feels comfortable and that's the way it has been all year for us," Konerko said. "When our starting pitcher looks good and relaxes, the hitters we score some runs."
The White Sox wasted little time against Angels rookie starter Ervin Santana on Saturday. Podsednik drew a walk to lead off the game and advanced to second when Santana hit the next batter, second baseman Tadahito Iguchi.
The homer was Konerko's second in two games and fourth in the postseason. He also hit a home run in the third inning of Game 1 of the American League Division League Series against Boston's Matt Clement and in the sixth inning of Game 3 against the Red Sox.
Konerko hit a two-run home run in the first inning Friday night against John Lackey.
"It feels good looking back on it," Konerko said. "In that situation, I did not feel great. That guy has a good slider and I'm just looking to get the run home, not hit a home run. I knew he was probably going to throw a slider because I looked bad on a few pitches before. It was nice to hit it right."
In addition to capturing the game's momentum and removing the crowd from the game, the first-inning barrage allowed starter Freddy Garcia the comfort of pitching with a lead.
A relaxed and confident Garcia stymied the potent Angels offense for nine innings. He gave up a run in the second frame and the fourth, but the pitching was solid -- again.
White Sox starters have thrown three consecutive complete games -- the first time that's been done in League Championship Series play since 1973. Jose Contreras, who started Game 1 of the ALCS and will pitch Sunday in Game 5, pitched 8 1/3 innings in his first start against the Angels.
"The starting pitching has been the real key," Konerko said. "Just because you score three runs in the first does not mean you are going to win the game. These guys have been doing it all year and now they are just really shining. I hope they can keep it up for another two weeks."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.