11 Half-Innings to a Championship: 2005 ALDS Game 2

David Wells made just one mistake in the bottom of the fifth inning, but it was a big one
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This is an in-depth breakdown of the most important half-innings during the White Sox 2005 championship run, publishing concurrently with the NBC Sports Chicago playoff reruns. The second installment covers the bottom of the fifth inning in Game 2 of the ALDS.

Setting the scene

In a battle of lefties, David Wells has outdueled Mark Buehrle through 4 ½ innings, and the Red Sox lead, 4-0, in the pivotal Game 2 of the five-game series. If the White Sox drop this game, the Red Sox will have taken home field advantage away, with two of the remaining three possible games scheduled for Boston. The White Sox head to bat in the bottom of the fifth with a 13% win probability, slowly running out of time to make something happen.

Batter: Carl Everett
Bases empty, nobody out, 4-0 Red Sox
White Sox win probability: 13%

A switch-hitter, Everett bats from the right side against the left-handed Wells. He already has one hit today, and after taking a fastball outside, he is able to wait back on a changeup and slap a line drive to the right side. If second baseman Tony Graffanino were positioned straight up, he may have had a play on it, but he is shaded up the middle. The ball skips into right field, and the Sox have a spark. Everett has a notable dislike for his former organization and he has made them pay, being a part of Chicago's big rallies in both Games 1 and 2. 

Batter: Aaron Rowand
Runner on first, nobody out, 4-0 Red Sox
White Sox win probability: 17%

Rowand takes the first pitch, an inside fastball, and pulls his hands inside it just enough. Prime David Wells may have eaten up Rowand with this pitch, but this version of Wells sits around 89 mph. The pitch definitely got in on Rowand slightly, but he is able to keep a looping line drive inches inside the chalk in the left field corner. With Manny Ramírez out there it is always an adventure, and the ball kicks around for a while, allowing Everett to score from first with no play. Rowand coasts into second with a double and the Sox are on the board.

Batter: A.J. Pierzynski
Runner on second, nobody out, 4-1 Red Sox
White Sox win probability: 27%

In this at-bat, A.J. needs to pull something so at worst, Rowand will be able to advance to third with fewer than two outs. Wells doesn’t make it easy for him, coming at him with two perfectly-located fastballs high and in on his hands; all A.J. can do is foul these pitches off. With two strikes, Wells throws a slow curve on the outside corner, a pretty good pitch. A.J. is able to wait back just enough and bounce a ground ball to Graffanino, who stays busy this inning. He throws A.J. out, but Rowand advances to third.

Batter: Joe Crede
Runner on third, one out, 4-1 Red Sox
White Sox win probability: 24%

With a three-run lead, the Red Sox keep their infield back, willing to trade an out for a run. If Crede can stay in the middle of the field, Rowand should be able to score. Wells again makes some great pitches during this at-bat, working Crede to a 2-2 count. He throws a low fastball that is out of the zone, but too close to take, and Crede hits a chopper over Wells' head. In today’s Statcast era, the ball likely would have had an extremely low hit probability based on exit velocity and launch angle, but it is placed perfectly between a sliding Graffanino and shortstop Edgar Renteria. If A.J. had not gotten Rowand over to third, one of the middle infielders would have been holding him on at second and this would have been out No 2. The ball instead rolls into center, Rowand scores, and Crede has a seeing-eye, RBI single.

Batter: Juan Uribe
Runner on first, one out, 4-2 Red Sox
White Sox win probability: 30%

Wells has definitely faced some bad luck in this inning, but he continues to make quality pitches. However, his luck is about to go from bad to worse. Uribe is able to spoil some good pitches with two strikes before sending a slow curveball rolling towards Graffanino. The Red Sox are a below-average fielding team, but this is no fault of Graffanino’s, who plays all over the diamond and owns a career .981 fielding percentage at second base. However, as most Sox fans (Red or White) remember, he tries to make the double play feed too quickly, pulling up before he had secured the ball. The ball rolls through his legs, Chris Berman lets out an “OH NO!” in the booth, and the crowd goes crazy. Crede rounds second and pulls into third, and Uribe is safe at first as well.

Batter: Scott Podsednik
Runners on first and third, 1 out, 4-2 Red Sox
White Sox win probability: 39%

Graffanino jogs to the mound to talk with Wells, and as a former infielder, that is never a fun conversation to have, let alone in the ALDS. It is always touchy to see the pitcher’s reaction, and this is where trust and team chemistry come in. All you can do is try to channel the negative energy of the situation into something constructive by making it the pitcher’s mission to “pick you up” and make up for your mistake. To Wells’ credit, he keeps making pitches, getting a huge infield pop out on a high fastball to Podsednik. The White Sox win probability drops 9%, and the Red Sox are now one out away from escaping further damage.

Batter: Tadahito Iguchi
Runners on first and third, two outs, 4-2 Red Sox
White Sox win probability: 30%

This is the moment of the series. Iguchi takes a ball, and then Wells paints the inside corner with a curveball. On the 1-1 pitch, Wells finally makes a mistake. He tries to throw another curve back-to-back, but leaves this one up and over the plate, and Tadahito doesn’t miss it.

U.S. Cellular Field is electric. The go-ahead, three-run blast increases the White Sox win probability 37%, all the way up to 67%. Iguchi doesn’t do much offensively for the rest of the playoff run, but this one swing is more than enough. Jermaine Dye strikes out to end the inning, but the damage has been done. Graffanino and the rest of the Red Sox look shell-shocked as they trot off the field, and Buehrle and Bobby Jenks are able to make that 5-4 score hold up. The White Sox head to Boston, one win away from advancing to the American League Championship Series.