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Perfect 'Penmanship

Two of Chicago's well-rested relievers, Cotts and Jenks, slam the door in 5-3 Game 1 win over Astros.

October 23, 2005|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — Bill Stoneman, your nightmare is live on Fox.

The Chicago White Sox didn't need their bullpen to beat the Angels in the American League championship series. They did need their bullpen in Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday, with Bobby Jenks polishing off a 5-3 victory by toying with the Houston Astros and perhaps prompting millions of viewers to wonder just what Stoneman and the Angels were thinking by tossing Jenks into the discard pile.

In the first World Series game in Chicago in 46 years, and in possibly the last game of Roger Clemens' distinguished career, Joe Crede hit the home run that put the White Sox ahead for good and saved two more runs with a pair of spectacular diving stops at third base.

But the box score, and the radar gun, credited the save to Jenks. He thrilled the crowd by pumping a series of 100-mph fastballs, striking out Jeff Bagwell with the go-ahead run on base in the eighth inning and blowing away the Astros in the ninth on eight pitches -- all strikes.

Pretty heady stuff for a rookie who started the season in double A, no?

"It doesn't matter how old the guy is when you've got that kind of stuff and it's in the strike zone," Chicago first baseman Paul Konerko said. "It doesn't matter what experience he has, or what he knows."

There was no shortage of experience on the mound for the Astros. Clemens, 43, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner, could have become the oldest pitcher to win a World Series game.

Instead, he gave up a home run to Jermaine Dye in the first inning and two runs on two singles and a double in the second, then called it a night. After two innings, three runs and 54 pitches, Clemens departed because of a strained left hamstring. The Astros listed him as day-to-day, and for now no one knows whether he can pitch again in this series, whether his turn will even come up again and whether he will retire after the series.

After Mike Lamb homered for the Astros in the second inning and Lance Berkman doubled home two runs in the third, Crede snapped a 3-3 tie with his home run in the fourth.

White Sox relievers do not stir early; Chicago starters finished off the Angels with four consecutive complete-game victories. Starter Jose Contreras gave up three runs and four hits in 43 pitches in the first three innings Saturday, no runs and one hit in 37 pitches over the next four. After Willy Taveras doubled to start the eighth, Chicago Manager Ozzie Guillen summoned his first reliever since Game 1 of the ALCS.

Neal Cotts gave up a single to Lance Berkman, and that 4-3 lead looked mighty precarious. But the Astros, with runners at first and third and none out, would not score.

"You can't expect to do that," Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "It just doesn't happen."

But it did. Cotts struck out Morgan Ensberg on a 94-mph fastball and Mike Lamb on a 90-mph breaking ball.

Then Guillen came out, pointed to the bullpen and swung his arms wide apart and high above his head, his goofy signal for the 270-pound Jenks.

"That's the trademark now," Guillen said. "I don't want to embarrass the kid, but I want the big boy."

Big boy, here's the ball, and there's Jeff Bagwell. Enjoy your World Series debut.

"For me, it was like a childhood fantasy," Jenks said. "You make that up in your head, especially against a guy like Bagwell, who will probably be a Hall of Famer."

Read it and weep, Angel fans: Strike one, 99 mph. Foul, 99 mph. Ball one, 100 mph. Ball two, 100 mph. Foul, 99 mph. Strike three, 100 mph.

"Those are natural gifts we all wish we could have," Cotts said.

Three up, three down in the ninth, with two more strikeouts. Those natural gifts are so rare that teams exhaust patience and opportunity with players who possess them, but Jenks simply exhausted the Angels. They had seen enough -- injuries, fights, beer sneaked onto a team bus -- so they put him on waivers.

At the same time, however, Stoneman protected five catchers from waivers, including journeymen Josh Paul and Wil Nieves.

The White Sox claimed Jenks, and he has been no trouble to anyone here, except opposing hitters. The Angels love to talk about "power arms," but they gave this one away.

"For a guy to get shunned by another organization and come over here and do what he's done," Konerko said, "it's a great story."

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