Astros fall behind 2-0 in World Series
Houston's bullpen struggles after solid Game 2 start by Pettitte
CHICAGO -- The euphoria the Houston Astros felt after recovering from a two-run deficit to tie the game with two outs in the ninth came to a screeching halt minutes later, when Scott Podsednik knocked a solo homer to center field off Brad Lidge to lift the Chicago White Sox to a 7-6 win.
The loss leaves the Astros in an 0-2 hold in the best-of-seven World Series, which moves to Houston for Games 3, 4 and 5, beginning Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros have been in this situation before. In 2004, they lost the first two games of the National League Championship Series to the Cardinals in St. Louis and returned home to win all three in Houston. The series went seven games, with the Cardinals winning the final two games at Busch.
So while it was quiet in Houston's clubhouse following this loss to the White Sox, no one was quite ready to write the obituary on the 2005 season.
"I think it'll be nice to go home and play in a controlled environment, first of all," Brad Ausmus said. "Certainly, Roy [Oswalt, Game 3 starter] has pitched well in the postseason, and we expect him to pitch well on Tuesday, so it's really no different.
"We were down 0-2 in the NLCS last year and we were able to come back to be ahead, 3-2. We wound up losing the series, but the fact that we came [back] to 3-2 underscores the fact that this is far from over."
The Astros said all the right things concerning Lidge, who has allowed two dramatic home runs in his last two outings. He yielded a three-run homer to Albert Pujols in Game 5 of the NLCS, and this homer to Podsednik, who did not go yard once during the regular season.
"I was little surprised," Lidge said. "You don't expect him to do that. I didn't want to fall behind 3-1 and have a chance to use his speed on the bases. I wanted to throw a strike, but I got too much of the plate. He's not a home run hitter. He just did a great job."
For a short time, the Astros were in a good position to win the game, having overcome a seventh-inning freefall, during which Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls blew a two-run lead built by Andy Pettitte, who was solid in six innings of work.
The comeback arrived in the ninth, when the Astros were aggressive against phenom closer Bobby Jenks, who had baffled them in Game 1.
Jeff Bagwell led off the inning with a single, and after Jason Lane struck out, Chris Burke, patient as anyone who has faced Jenks in this series, walked.
Ausmus advanced the runners with a groundout to first base, and Jose Vizcaino, pinch-hitting for Adam Everett, knocked a first-pitch single to left. Bagwell scored easily, and third-base coach Doug Mansolino frantically waved in Burke, whose hand touched home plate a hair before Pierzynski tagged his arm. Tie game.
That let Wheeler and Qualls off the hook for a forgettable seventh.
Wheeler yielded a one-out double to Juan Uribe, and after Wheeler struck out Podsednik, he walked Tadahito Iguchi to bring No. 3 hitter Jermaine Dye to the plate. Wheeler worked Dye to a 3-2 count before throwing an inside fastball, which home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson ruled hit the White Sox right fielder.
Replays appeared to show the ball actually hit Dye's bat. With the bases loaded, Garner called for Qualls to face Konerko. One pitch later, Konerko deposited a fastball offering from Qualls into the left-field stands for a grand slam.
"When I struck out Podsednik, I put myself in the position to get out of the inning with no harm done," Wheeler said. "I just couldn't get it done."
The offense, however temporarily, saved them two innings later.
"Just joy," Wheeler said, asked how he reacted to Vizcaino's pinch-hit. "Unbelievable. That was such a huge knock by Vizcy. He get the job done. He's had some past history in getting the job done in big situations in the postseason. I honestly thought we were going to win the game there."
Said Qualls: "That's pretty much the explanation of a team right there. They picked me up and we ended up scoring."
Unfortunately for the Astros, it wasn't just Wheeler and Qualls who didn't perform. Only Mike Gallo recorded a scoreless outing.
"Tonight was one of those nights where we need to pick them up," Craig Biggio said. "We're here in the World Series because of those guys. In the same situation, the same guys go out there again. Those guys have been lights out all year long."
"They're the reason why we're here," Vizcaino said of the bullpen. "They've been doing a heck of a job. You pat them on the back and tell them we'll get them next time. They're human. That's all it is."
The Astros hope for a reversal of fortune when they begin the home portion of the World Series on Tuesday. In an effort to speed up the process, the players who began growing full beards at the beginning of the playoffs shaved their whiskers down to a goatee before boarding the buses to the airport.
The orders were handed down by Bagwell and Ausmus, who mentioned during the NLCS that had the Astros returned from St. Louis down 0-2, they were going to shave the beards and leave the moustaches.
"If things don't work out on Tuesday," Ausmus said, "we might have to go to that. We'll whittle our way down."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.