11 Half-Innings to a Championship: 2005 ALCS Game 3

The White Sox get to John Lackey early, staking Jon Garland to a lead he would not relinquish
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This is an in-depth breakdown of the most important half-innings during the 2005 championship run, publishing concurrently with the NBC Sports Chicago playoff reruns. The fifth installment covers the top of the first inning in Game 3 of the ALCS.

Setting the scene

In Anaheim, Jon Garland is taking the ball for the White Sox in Game 3, coming off of a 13-day layoff. He is in the midst of the best season of his career, but how the layoff will affect him is the storyline leading up to the game. The Sox would love to give Garland a lead to work with right off the bat. The Angels are throwing John Lackey, coming in with an 8-1 record after the All-Star break and a 0.56 HR/9, the lowest rate in the American League.

Batter: Scott Podsednik
Bases empty, no outs, no score
White Sox win probability: 50%

Lackey gets ahead 0-2 to start off the game, and then Podsednik lines a looping curveball into right field for a leadoff single. Lackey is visibly frustrated with himself for giving Podsednik that pitch on an 0-2 count.

Batter: Tadahito Iguchi
Runner on first, no outs, no score
White Sox win probability: 54%

Podsednik has not been as successful stealing bases of late, so Iguchi drops down a sacrifice bunt on the first pitch of his at-bat, moving Podsednik over to second. Overall, this play drops the White Sox win probability slightly, but it keeps the pressure on the pitcher and defense, and small ball is how the Sox have played all year.

Batter: Jermaine Dye
Runner on second, one out, no score
White Sox win probability: 52%

Lackey misses inside with a first-pitch fastball, backing Jermaine Dye off the plate. Lackey only throws a cutter 3% of the time, but after backing Dye up with the tailing fastball, he goes to it. However, he misses up and over the plate, and Dye stays on it, driving the pitch into the right-center gap. 

Podsednik scores easily to give the Sox an early 1-0 lead, and Dye coasts into second with an RBI double. Lackey has not looked sharp early.

Batter: Paul Konerko
Runner on second, one out, 1-0 White Sox
White Sox win probability: 61%

Konerko has struggled a bit in the series, coming in 1-for-8 with little impact. He works the count full, and with first base open, Bengie Molina calls for a curveball low and away. Lackey misses badly, throwing an absolute hanger on the inner half that Paulie takes advantage of. The ball is gone as soon as it leaves the bat, and the Sox have a 3-0 cushion fewer than six minutes into the game.

Chicago's win probability improves to 75%, and although Lackey gets the next two hitters to end the inning, those runs prove to be all the White Sox will need. Garland, pitching confidently after being staked to a quick lead, ends up throwing a complete game gem, and the South Side's stellar starting pitching continues: The White Sox win, 5-2, to take a 2-1 series lead.