Sox ALCS pitching: Unabridged history
What Chicago's four arms did is enough to make one shiver
News outlets could have reported Sunday night that Yeti was spotted working as a tour guide in Yellowstone Park, gasoline prices had dropped to two bits a gallon, and scientists in the Alps discovered two snowflakes that were alike.They may as well have, because the real news was as unlikely: The Chicago White Sox had pitched their World Series tent with a fourth consecutive complete-game AL Championship Series victory over the Angels. These things just don't happen. You mean in 2005, in an era of coddled arms, bullpen specialization and computer printout push buttons? No, we mean, never. "I always expect good performances out of our starters, want them to go deep and believe in them -- but what they did is way above and beyond my expectations and those of a lot of other people," Don Cooper, the suddenly celebrated pitching coach, said on his head-shaking way back to Chicago. Does Cooper really mean no one expected his starting rotation to do something that hadn't been done in 104 years of postseason baseball? You can hear the branding wheels turning in the background. Fantastic Four? Fab Four? But none of the dog-eared standbys will do. Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras deserve something as original as their feat. How about Wholesome Foursome? Thanks to videotape and digital media, proof of their accomplishment will endure. Otherwise, future generations would argue whether it really happened, like the debates about whether Babe Ruth called that home run, or if Enos Slaughter really held that ball too long. "It seemed like they were competing against each other, trying to one-up each other," said Ken Williams, the White Sox general manager whose own playing career (1986-1991) already unfolded in the "quality start" era. "You hope to get one [complete game] and give your bullpen a rest, but this is ridiculous." If going six innings and allowing fewer than four earned runs is "quality," what is this, in the pressure chamber of postseason to boot? You can't qualify it, because it is unprecedented. Even those who attempted to spin it into a historical perspective whiffed. Mike Scioscia, the vanquished Angels manager, for instance said: "You might have to go back to Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, that group [of mid-'60s Dodgers], or the group Baltimore had in '66." In the last few days, a lot of historical comparisons and first-time-since-when data have been spit out by the stats-and-facts crunchers, but, on the bottom line, never before have four different starters pitched successive postseason complete-game victories. Period. In 1928, in their World Series sweep of St. Louis, the Yankees produced the only prior instance of four consecutive complete-game victories. However, Waite Hoyt pitched Games 1 and 4, bookending efforts by George Pipgras and Tom Zachary.
In 1956, the Yankees actually completed the last five of their seven-game World Series triumph over Brooklyn. But Bob Turley lost his Game 6 gem, 1-0, following wins by Whitey Ford, Tom Sturdivant and Don Larsen and preceding Johnny Kucks' Game 7 clincher. In 1969, a vaunted Orioles rotation also went the route four straight times, finishing off the Twins in the ALCS on complete games by Dave McNally and Jim Palmer, and opening the World Series with Mike Cuellar's route-going job over the Mets. But McNally lost a complete-game six-hitter in Game 2. You get the idea. The White Sox baffled history, as well as the Angels, with a string of efforts that spun out of control from unreal to surreal. After two, the White Sox felt they had hit the jackpot. After three, they felt giddy as the coins kept spewing out of the tray. After four, they just felt stupid as the machine imploded and they were handed the keys to the casino. "In the end, our pitching was amazing," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski. "They deserve so much credit, you can't even describe it. I don't know if you'll ever see it again." But how were the White Sox able to do it even once? This wasn't a quirk, but the best-case culmination of a lot of factors.
|"You might have to go back to Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, that group [of mid-'60s Dodgers], or the group Baltimore had in '66."|
|-- Angels manager Mike Scioscia|
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.