10/02/08 8:30 PM EST
Wise wields big bat in Game 1
Sox journeyman outfielder makes most of ALDS start
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
But not even the bright lights of baseball's big October stage could get him to brag about his first postseason homer.
His three-run shot came with two outs off James Shields' stealthy changeup, and it put the White Sox in control of their American League Division Series opener in the top of the third inning. Evan Longoria's go-ahead homer in the bottom of the inning showed how fleeting that control can be.
Contrary to the image of a journeyman Minor Leaguer, this isn't Wise's first taste of the postseason -- or a postseason game defeat. He was a pinch-hitter on the 2004 Braves team that won 96 games and suffered a Division Series upset to the Astros. That was four years and five Minor League teams ago. His only playoff experience since was an International League Governors' Cup with Triple-A Toledo in 2005.
He battled to get back to the big leagues for more than a cup of coffee, and his four September homers helped convince the White Sox to keep him around. His pinch-hit grand slam Sept. 14 helped them to a win over the Tigers. His two-run homer the next day erased a Yankees lead before Chicago lost the game late. But a 3-for-31 skid had halted Wise's momentum since.
Not only is he back in the postseason, he's in a starting role, batting second in front of Chicago's big run producers against right-handed pitchers. As much as he's been through, that's still enough to get him jumpy.
"It was kind of nerve-wracking," Wise said. "I couldn't sleep last night, because I was a little excited."
His first at-bat against Shields served as his wake-up call. He fouled off a first-pitch fastball and a cutter before Shields quickly finished him off with that offspeed pitch for the second out of the opening inning. He kept that in mind for his next at-bat, when he stepped up with runners on second and third with two outs in a 1-0 game.
Again, Shields used his fastball and cutter to put him into a 2-2 count.
"I know he's a guy that, with two strikes, likes to throw his changeup," Wise said. "It's probably one of the best in the league. I was kind of sitting on it. It's a great pitch, and if you're not sitting on it, you have no chance at all."
Of course, Shields could've overpowered him instead, but Wise had to take that chance.
"If he would've thrown me a fastball," Wise said, "I would've just tried to foul it off or something. I'm just glad he was able to leave one up, and I was able to get my bat into it."
In Shields' estimation, as well as that of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, it was his lone mistake pitch of the afternoon. It was still good enough that Wise was nearly too far in front of it to keep it fair. Instead, Wise sent it out in a hurry, and sent the White Sox in front.
It was his second career postseason hit. His previous was a pinch-hit double off another nasty pitcher, Houston's Roy Oswalt.
"Big home run, two outs," teammate A.J. Pierzynski said. "He really picked us up. The biggest thing was we didn't shut them down next inning."
The final two regular-season White Sox home runs this regular season had been game-winners. Wise wasn't so lucky.
Fittingly, Wise had all too good of a view of that lead dissipating. He was in left field in the bottom of the inning when the Rays scored three runs, the last of them Longoria's shot off the second catwalk at the top of Tropicana Field.
Wise watched it fly, then watched it fall into the left-field seats.
"I didn't know if it was going to come down in play or what," Wise said. "I ended up talking to the umpire. He said once it hits that back one, then it's a home run anyway. [Longoria's] an amazing kid."
Wise's performance over the past month has been pretty amazing in its own right. He just had to wait a few years to get a chance for it.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.