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Archive for Thursday, October 20, 2005

White Sox, Astros end long droughts

Long-suffering franchises set to clash

October 20, 2005

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Windy City vs. Bayou City.

Deep dish pizza vs. Texas barbecue.

They have one historic theme in common: decades of futility.

And one current trait that got them to where they are: deep starting pitching.

"All the frustration, it's been worth the wait," White Sox vice chairman Eddie Einhorn said. "It's a generation-long wait. I mean, that's a long wait."

Starting Saturday night, Chicago plays host to the World Series for the first time since 1959, back when there were just 16 teams, no divisions, no wild cards, no designated hitters - and no Astros.

"St. Louis has a better offense, but Houston has a better pitching staff. Either way you look at it, it's not going to be easy," White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle said before the Astros beat the Cardinals, 5-1, Wednesday night to win the NL pennant.

Houston wasn't even awarded a franchise until Oct. 17, 1960. At that owners' meeting, which happened to take place in Chicago, it would have been hard to envision that the club's first NL pennant wouldn't come for 45 years - but then again, the team's first name was the Houston Colt .45s. The club wouldn't become the Astros until 1965, when it moved into the Astrodome, the so-called eighth wonder of the world.

Both teams' current ballparks have had more names than pennant winners.

Houston moved in 2000 to Enron Field, which became Astros Field in February 2002 after the trading company got into financial trouble. Then a juicy deal was signed in June 2002, and the stadium was renamed Minute Maid Park.

Chicago moved in 1991 from the old Comiskey Park, its home since 1910, to the adjacent new Comiskey Park, which in 2003 became U.S. Cellular Field.

And the two ballparks played host to the All-Star game in consecutive years: Chicago in 2003, followed by Houston.

For four straight seasons, from 1997-2000, the teams met in interleague play, with the White Sox winning seven of 12. But they haven't met since. Now they'll share baseball's October spotlight.

Chicago, which hasn't won the title since 1917, is coming off the best postseason performance by starting pitchers in nearly half a century, with Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras throwing consecutive complete games against the Los Angeles Angels. Not since the 1956 New York Yankees strung together five straight had a team pitched four in a row in a postseason series.

Houston became the first team since the 1914 Boston Braves to win a pennant after falling 15 games under .500 during the regular season. The Astros have seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt and Brandon Backe, who haven't gotten the complete games, but have been just as effective.

"Yeah, they obviously have a tremendous pitching staff," Houston closer Brad Lidge said of the White Sox. "Just watching their games on TV, it's amazing that their starters have been able to do what they have done, and they seem it get stronger at the end of games."

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