it took the white sox bats 4 innings to do what the cardinals' couldn't do in 21 --- adjust to roy oswalt. held to just 2 hits through 4 innings last night, the sox in the 5th inning decided to take the outer half of the plate away from houston's ace. joe crede took him deep the other way; then juan uribe singled after fouling off a two-strike pitch on the outer half; the pitcher, jon garland, slapped an outside pitch just foul down the right-field line before striking out; and iguchi and dye both poked singles up the middle on pitches away. (dye extended his at-bat to 8 pitches by fouling off a 3-2 fastball on the outside corner.)
by the time oswalt counter-adjusted and started moving 'em off the plate (witness the pointed hbp to crede), he'd lost a 4-0 lead and a slam-dunk opp'ty to get his team back into the series. which is now over, i think we can all agree.
to be sure, oswalt wasn't as sharp vs the sox as he was in three consecutive starts vs the cards -- one in the last week of the reg'r season, and two in the nlcs. he didn't get much help from jerry layne's umpiring either. but you still have to credit the sox on their problem-solving approach. chicago swung and missed only 4 times in 7 innings against oswalt last night; the cardinals by contrast had 10 swinging strikes in game 6 against oswalt, 17 in game 2, and 16 in the september 27 game -- hopeless flailing. despite seeing osw't three times in three weeks, they never forced him out of his comfort zone as the white sox did last night.
go figure. these white sox drew 100 fewer walks than the redbirds in 2005 and struck out 60 times more; their on-base pct was 17 points lower, their slugging avg just 3 points higher -- but remember, pitchers don't bat in the american league; remove stl's pitcher at-bats and the cardinals outslugged the white sox by 12 points. yet this comparatively impotent sox lineup has made mince-meat of the same houston staff that stymied the cardinal bats.
how to explain this: the crap-shoot factor? that's almost surely all it is -- just the luck of the draw, a matter of one team (just by chance) seeing the ball well come october, hitting grounders that find holes, etc etc. or perhaps the american league is simply that much better than the nl; they've won 7 straight world series games. another theory: Fate is in charge here, guiding the white sox to a reward 88 years deferred.
maybe the fix is in and oswalt took a dive.
whatever. i never heard a single pundit say at the outset of these playoffs that the white sox were tougher to pitch to than the cardinals. but that's how it has turned out.