CHICAGO – As the Angels spent the past couple of days rolling up their frequent-flier miles, the Chicago White Sox rested and waited. It was their reward for sweeping the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox out of the playoffs, setting them up nicely for their American League Championship Series against the Angels. However, it was the White Sox who appeared soggy in the Angels’ 3-2 victory in Game 1 in front of 40,659 at U.S. Cellular Field, made to look that way by Angels starter Paul Byrd and relievers Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez, and an Angels team that executed almost flawlessly. Byrd gave up two runs and five hits in six crisp innings, Shields followed with two scoreless innings and Rodriguez remained perfect in save situations in the playoffs with a scoreless ninth. The Angels did all the little things needed in a tight game, getting a bunt down, stealing bases, making plays on defense. The White Sox didn’t, looking more like they were the team that had flown from New York to Southern California to Chicago in less than 48 hours, not the Angels. “You have to execute out there,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “We were fortunate we were able to. This is the way the series is going to be. The White Sox execute small ball probably better than anybody in our league.” But not in Game 1. The Angels were 2 for 2 in stolen-base attempts, while the White Sox had two runners thrown out trying to steal by catcher Bengie Molina. Scott Podsednik, who finished second in the league with 59 steals behind Chone Figgins, was thrown out on a pitchout called from the bench by Scioscia in the fifth inning. “He’s a very good manager,” Molina said. “He was a catcher in the big leagues for 13 years. He has a pretty good idea who’s going.” In the seventh, Molina threw out A.J. Pierzynski trying to steal. “I think he was confused,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said of Pierzynski, who had zero stolen bases during the regular season. “I think he must have missed the sign.” The Angels got just enough offense against White Sox starter Jose Contreras, who had won nine consecutive starts, including one in the postseason. A home run by Garret Anderson in the second inning gave the Angels a 1-0 lead, and they turned consecutive singles by Steve Finley and Adam Kennedy to start the third into two more runs. The pitchers held on from there, but they said it wasn’t any easier than holding off the powerful Yankees lineup to win the ALDS. “It’s a different type of lineup, different type of hitters,” Shields said. “They still make you work, they run the bases, they put the ball in play. And they still have some pretty good thumpers too. We have a little different strategy with their hitters, but you still need to make pitches.” Shields came up with probably the pitch of the game in the bottom of the eighth when the White Sox had runners on first and second with two outs and cleanup hitter Paul Konerko up. Shields retired Konerko on a flyball to center. “I was just trying to get Paul out somehow,” Shields said. “He’s had an incredible year. I was trying to make a pitch for him to pop out on, or hit a groundball at somebody. After I got him, I could breathe easier.” The Angels could also rest easier, knowing they could return to the team hotel and sleep until noon today if they wanted, with no flight on their itinerary. “We’re supposed to be tired, but once we’re between the white lines, you don’t think about it much,” Molina said. “You just play the game. But when we got that third out in the ninth inning, that’s when I felt tired.” Contreras had not lost a start since Aug. 15 and was the AL pitcher of the month for September. He retired the side in order in the first, but Anderson led off the second with a home run, blasting a 2-0 pitch into the right-field seats. In the third, the Angels flipped on their little-ball switch after Finley and Kennedy began the inning with singles. Figgins sacrificed the runners to second and third, and Orlando Cabrera drove in Finley from third with an infield single. Vladimir Guerrero followed with a comebacker to Contreras, who would have had a play at the plate on Kennedy. But Contreras never looked home, and tried to turn the double play. Cabrera was forced out at second, but his hard slide forced second baseman Tadahito Iguchi to throw wildly, allowing Guerrero to reach first and Kennedy to score for a 3-0 Angels lead. “That helped us a lot,” Molina said. “We scored first and had a 3-0 lead, and we took over after that. Maybe you expect a lot of mistakes or miscues because of the circumstances we went through, but we played a great game.” The White Sox crept back in it, first getting a solo homer from Joe Crede in the bottom of the third to make it 3-1. In the fourth, Carl Everett singled and came around to score on Pierzynski’s two-out single to cut the Angels’ lead to 3-2. Joe Haakenson, (626) 962-8811 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
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