11 Half-Innings to a Championship: 2005 ALCS Game 4

Everyone remembers Freddy García pitching Chicago's third consecutive complete game, but do you remember the half-inning that allowed that to happen?
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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 sixth installment covers the bottom of the second inning in Game 4 of the ALCS.

Setting the scene

Freddy García is next in line to start for the White Sox in Game 4. Again, Paul Konerko stakes the White Sox to a 3-0 lead before García takes the mound, hitting another first-inning home run, on a 3-2 breaking ball off Angels starter Ervin Santana. 

While the White Sox first is probably the most memorable half-inning, I want to focus on the bottom of the second. With the Sox leading, 3-0, García comes out for his second inning of work looking to keep stringing outs together.

Batter: Garrett Anderson
Bases empty, no outs, 3-0 White Sox
White Sox win probability: 75%

Garrett Anderson is a player who doesn’t get enough respect today. A career .293 hitter, Anderson led the league in doubles twice and hit 287 career home runs. However, in this at-bat, he goes after a first-pitch fastball and hits a soft fly ball to right field for the first out. The tailing action away from the left-handed Anderson keeps the ball off of his barrel.

Batter: Darin Erstad
Bases empty, one out, 3-0 White Sox
White Sox win probability: 77%

Erstad, another World Series champion from 2002, walks on four pitches. He is the Angels’ first baserunner of the game and their first since the sixth inning of Game 3. This just goes to show how dominant Chicago's pitching has been.

Batter: Casey Kotchman
Runner on first, one out, 3-0 White Sox
White Sox win probability: 74%

García misses on the first two pitches to Kotchman to make it six straight balls, and A.J. heads out for a quick mound visit to help García reset. García gets a strike over the outside corner, and then throws a great changeup that Kotchman is way out in front on, chopping a swinging bunt down the third base line. It is a tough play, and García throws it down the right field line. Kotchman ends up at second, Erstad at third, and García is now in a self-inflicted jam. The play is ruled a hit, with the runners advancing on the García error.

Batter: Bengie Molina
Runners on second and third, one out, 3-0 White Sox
White Sox win probability: 66%

Molina tries to check his swing on a first-pitch slider but is unable to hold up and seems to tweak something, as he grimaces in pain. He is fooled by the next pitch as well, another slider, but he stays on it just enough to serve a weak line drive into center field. Erstad scores, but Kotchman is surprisingly held up at third despite the ball taking a while to get to Aaron Rowand in center field. The Angels don’t want to run themselves out of a potential big inning while trailing, but it seems like Kotchman would have had a good chance to score on the play. When Rowand double clutches and then throws it into the ground, third base coach Ron Roenicke has to be kicking himself.

Batter: Steve Finley
Runners on first and third, one out, 3-1 White Sox
White Sox win probability: 59%

The home crowd, known for their Rally Monkeys and thundersticks, is finally energized again. With a banged-up Bengie Molina (one of the slowest players in baseball) at first, Konerko plays behind him to give himself more range for the left-handed Steve Finley. Finley is another guy who doesn’t get enough credit for a very solid, 44-WAR career. However, he is 40 years old at this point and has had a rough season.

After a first-pitch fastball for a strike, García throws the pitch of the game, another good changeup that Finley is out in front on. A.J. reaches out to try and frame the changeup before it dives out of the zone, but Finley nicks his glove with the swing. Catcher’s interference usually happens so quickly that the only way to tell is to hear it, but because of the crowd noise, none of the umpires notice. Finley rolls over to Iguchi’s left at second base.

Although he is 40 years old, Finley is a center fielder and still has good speed. Normally, on a ball this far to his left, Iguchi would have no chance at the double play. However, Finley does not get out of the box well, breaking his stride to turn around and let the home plate umpire know he was interfered with. This gives Iguchi and Uribe just enough time to complete an outstanding double play turn, getting Finley on a bang-bang play at first base. Finley turns to argue with the umpiring crew, but the Sox have caught anther huge break and get out of the jam.

Chicago's win probability jumps back up to 71%. A.J. continues to be in the middle of controversy benefitting the White Sox. If catcher’s interference would have been called, the Angels would have had the bases loaded with one out. The Angels could have easily gotten back in the game, and at worst, García would have had to throw many more pitches to get out of the jam. This is significant, because García goes on to throw the White Sox third complete game in a row, which wouldn’t have been possible if his pitch count would have been any higher. The Sox win, 8-2, putting them a win away from the World Series.