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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS | CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Angels Are Punched Out

Guerrero's futility sets tone for entire lineup in ALCS loss to White Sox, who earn first Series berth since '59

October 17, 2005|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

The Angels stirred, but their sleeping giant never awoke. They scratched and clawed and didn't go down without a fight, which was their stated objective after getting embarrassed by the Chicago White Sox in two previous American League championship series games.

But it's hard to win when your Goliath is about as dangerous as David without a slingshot or stone. Vladimir Guerrero, the slugger who has carried the Angels for so many stretches, the man who can alter games with one swing of the bat, disappeared during the ALCS, and the rest of the Angels pretty much followed his lead.

The White Sox won their first American League pennant since 1959, defeating the Angels, 6-3, in front of 44,712 in rain-soaked Angel Stadium on Sunday night, earning a World Series berth opposite Houston or St. Louis on the strength of an opportunistic offense and a pitching staff that hurled four complete games in a row.

Joe Crede hit a game-tying home run against Angel reliever Kelvim Escobar in the seventh inning, and the White Sox scored the go-ahead run in the eighth after another controversial (but correct) call by an umpire on a play involving -- who else? -- A.J. Pierzynski extended their inning.

Crede's infield chopper over the head of reliever Francisco Rodriguez, which followed Escobar's panic-induced error on a Pierzynski grounder, scored Aaron Rowand from second to give Chicago a 4-3 lead, and the White Sox added two runs in the ninth, one on a run-scoring double by ALCS most valuable player Paul Konerko.

Right-hander Jose Contreras provided the finishing touch, limiting the Angels to three runs and five hits in nine innings, his 114-pitch effort following the lead of Game 2 winner Mark Buehrle, Game 3 winner Jon Garland and Game 4 winner Freddy Garcia.

The White Sox, who won the best-of-seven series, 4-1, became the first team to throw four consecutive complete games in a playoff series since the New York Yankees threw five in the 1956 World Series, by Whitey Ford, Tom Sturdivant, Don Larsen, Bob Turley and Johnny Kucks.

But as dominating as the Chicago rotation was, the Angels will probably remember this series for what their offense wasn't.

In five games, the Angels hit .175 with 22 strikeouts, four walks, eight extra-base hits and a .200 on-base percentage. They scored 11 runs, the fewest in a five-game series since Minnesota scored 10 against Baltimore in the 1970 ALCS.

Leadoff batter Chone Figgins hit .118 (two for 17); No. 3 hitter Garret Anderson hit .176 (three for 17); catcher Bengie Molina, who hit three homers in the division series win, hit .118 (two for 17), and shortstop Orlando Cabrera hit .200 (four for 20).

And then there was Guerrero, the 2004 AL most valuable player, who hit .050 (one for 20) with one strikeout, no walks and one run batted in.

But here's the shocker: Guerrero's performance was worse than his line score would indicate. In 20 plate appearances, he grounded out 14 times, twice into double plays, and popped out twice. He hit only two balls out of the infield.

His lone hit was an infield single. The impatient slugger saw just 47 pitches, an average of 2.4 per plate appearance. He rarely even hit the ball hard.

The big question going into the series was whether the White Sox would pitch to Guerrero. Not only did they pitch to him, they suffocated him, and that seemed to choke off the entire Angel offense.

"I thought I saw the ball well, but I'm very disappointed that at times I wasn't able to come up with a big hit," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "I'm going to keep my head up. This is not the series I wanted to have, but I signed here because I thought this team could do this every year. I want to come back and do this again."

Manager Mike Scioscia didn't think it was fair to pin too much blame on Guerrero.

"There's no denying how big Vlad is to our club and to our offense," Scioscia said. "But if one guy is down, you have to be deep enough to keep going. This wasn't about Vlad not swinging the bat; it was about seven or eight guys struggling at a tough time, matched up against some very good pitching."

Guerrero said he felt fine physically, that he was not tired from the three-day, New York-to-Anaheim-to-Chicago trek last week. Something looked wrong, though.

"You obviously count on your better players to play well," Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman said, "and Vladdy didn't have a very good series."

Neither did the Angels, particularly at the plate.

The teams traded early runs Sunday, Chicago scoring on Crede's sacrifice fly in the second and the Angels on Juan Rivera's double and Adam Kennedy's run-scoring single in the third.

The White Sox took a 2-1 lead on Jermaine Dye's run-scoring double in the fifth, but the Angels rallied in the bottom of the fifth, Kennedy leading off with an infield single and scoring on Figgins' hit-and-run double, which ended an 0-for-12 skid. Figgins scored on Anderson's sacrifice fly to make it 3-2.

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