Chicago Joe Crede has two herniated discs in his back and he broke his finger in late August, though it was hard to tell in Saturday night's World Series opener.
The White Sox's third baseman hit a go-ahead homer - his third of the postseason - and made two sparkling defensive plays to stop Houston rallies as Chicago emerged with a 5-3 victory in its first World Series appearance in 46 years.
"They put the good wood on the ball, tough situations and I was fortunate enough to get leather on it," the low-key Crede said, typically brushing off accolades.
His defense brought back memories of two other third basemen whose October exploits are still part of World Series lore - Brooks Robinson and Graig Nettles.
"To be able to perform on this stage and be compared to all those great players, it's definitely an honor," Crede said.
Crede's bat put the White Sox ahead in the fourth inning with a solo shot - he now has nine postseason RBIs - and his glove preserved the lead in the sixth and seventh.
"You got the nerves and butterflies going in, and you know what, the game starts and you calm yourself down and realize you got a job to do, and that's go out and win a ballgame," Crede said.
He made a stellar backhand stab of Morgan Ensberg's hot shot with the tying run on third base in the sixth. And when the Astros had first and third in the seventh, again threatening to tie, Crede made another great stop and threw out Craig Biggio to end the inning.
"We knew it would be a tight game the whole way," Crede said. "You just don't play for a blowout. You always play for the close game. We were playing aggressive-style defense out there."
His plays helped Jose Contreras get his third win of the postseason.
"Joe Crede has been like this the whole year, he's been great defensively and great offensively and today his two plays saved the game," Contreras said through a translator.
"He hit a home run that put us ahead and add in the two defensive plays that kept us in the game and made us win. Because if those balls go through, they go ahead and we might lose."
Manager Ozzie Guillen said Crede's defense always had been there, even when he struggled at the plate.
"His defense made up for his hitting early in the season," Guillen said. "We built this team on pitching and defense and Joe is a big part of that. Joe had some big clutch hits this season. He always brings his defense with him to the ball field."
A two-time minor league MVP whose first full season was 2003, Crede's fielding has never been a problem but his inconsistency at the plate has. He's got the power, as he demonstrated the last two regular seasons when he connected for 21 and 22 homers.
And Crede in the clutch is no surprise to those who have watched his career unfold. He has five game-ending homers.