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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Sox in Complete Control

The Angels' Lackey doesn't have the right stuff, and Garland matches Buehrle's effort as Chicago cruises and takes a 2-1 series lead.

October 15, 2005|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

This had nothing to do with any hangover effect from Wednesday night's crushing defeat, when the Chicago White Sox capitalized on one of the most controversial calls in recent playoff history to beat the Angels in Game 2 of the American League championship series.

It had plenty to do with the hangover effect of Angel right-hander John Lackey's usually sharp-breaking curve, which spent far too much time hanging over the middle of the plate, resulting in a number of tasty offerings for a run-hungry bunch from Chicago.

Lackey's curve has been nearly untouchable in recent starts, but his signature pitch had no bark or bite Friday night. The White Sox pounced on Lackey for three first-inning runs and rode the brilliant pitching of Jon Garland to a 5-2 Game 3 victory before 44,725 in Angel Stadium.

Garland, who hadn't pitched in 13 days, was dominant in a complete-game four-hitter, striking out seven, walking one and throwing 83 of his 118 pitches for strikes to give the White Sox a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series.

Garland, who was nearly acquired by the Angels for Darin Erstad in 2002 before a Disney executive squashed the deal, combined with Game 2 starter Mark Buehrle to become the first pitchers to throw consecutive complete games in a postseason series since Livan Hernandez and Kevin Brown of the Florida Marlins beat the Atlanta Braves in Games 5 and 6 of the 1997 National League championship series.

White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko had three hits, including a two-run home run on a fat full-count curve in the first inning, and Scott Podsednik and Tadahito Iguchi, the first two batters in Chicago's order, combined for four hits and three runs.

"I hung a couple of breaking balls, I left a couple of pitches up -- no excuses," said Lackey, who gave up only five runs and 14 hits in 22 1/3 innings of his last four starts, including two division series no-decisions against the New York Yankees. "You can't give up four or five runs against a team with their rotation; that could mean the game."

Especially with the way the Angels are hitting. After breaking out for 11 runs and 19 hits in Game 3 against the Yankees and cobbling enough clutch hits together to win Game 5, the Angel offense has slipped into yet another funk, the same kind that threatened to torpedo their season on so many occasions.

The Angels are batting .174 (16 for 92) in three ALCS games, and No. 3 hitter Vladimir Guerrero, cleanup batter Garret Anderson and No. 5 hitter Bengie Molina have combined for three hits in 32 at-bats (.091) and two runs batted in.

Guerrero is hitting .083 (one for 12); Anderson is batting .091 (one for 11) and Molina, who had three homers and five RBIs against the Yankees, is hitting .100 (one for 10).

Leadoff batter Chone Figgins is hitting .100 (one for 10) in the ALCS and .129 (four for 31) with nine strikeouts in eight playoff games. About the only regular who is swinging even a lukewarm bat is shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who provided the only Angel highlight with a two-run home run in the sixth inning Friday and is batting .333 (four for 12) in the series.

"We looked weird today -- it seemed like we didn't swing the bats like we're used to," Cabrera said. "Garland pitched a heck of a game, but we didn't attack the pitcher; he attacked us the whole game. He threw a lot of first-pitch strikes, mixed his pitches and worked the corners. It seems like we were waiting for one pitch that never came."

Outside of Cabrera's homer, the Angels hit only one other ball hard, Erstad's two-out double to right in the second. But Erstad, in what seemed an act of desperation with the Angels trailing by three, was gunned down trying to stretch the hit into a triple, the relay team of right fielder Jermaine Dye and second baseman Iguchi combining to snuff out Erstad.

"I made my read and it was the wrong read; I screwed up," Erstad said. "I trust my instincts. They weren't right on that play."

Manager Mike Scioscia said the Angels' energy level before the game was "great," but Chicago's three-run first, combined with Erstad's mistake, seemed to deflate them.

"Any time you don't swing the bats you're going to look flat, and unfortunately, we didn't get anything going," Scioscia said. "Garland was part of that, and so was us being a little soft."

The Angel offense is usually predicated on the speedy Figgins getting on base and Guerrero knocking him in, but Figgins can't steal first, and with so few runners on, Guerrero has had little to knock in.

Guerrero did single off Garland's foot in the fourth inning Friday, but he also bounced into a double play, struck out and flied to right. He saw 10 pitches in four at-bats and has seen 37 pitches in 12 at-bats in the series.

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