Chicago lefty Mark
Buehrle comes out channeling Sandy Koufax, striking out a season-high seven in
the first three innings. Only thing is, Detroit starter Kenny Rogers is
pitching even better, with a no-hitter through four. First Johnson, now this.
Apparently I'm good luck for cantankerous fortysomething pitchers.
In the fifth
Detroit's Sean Casey sends one into the rightfield bleachers, just above the
Bullpen bar, to give the Tigers a 3--0 lead. Aided by three Detroit errors, the
White Sox draw even in the bottom of the inning, then tack on another run.
Before I know it, Jenks is jogging in from the pen to protect a 4--3 lead in
the ninth. Just then it dawns on me: After a week on the road, this could be
the first time I see a home team win.
Down goes the
heart of the Tigers' order: Rodriguez, then Ordo�ez and, finally, shortstop
Carlos Guillen. White Sox win! Then it's fireworks and high fives, and--most
notably--it's O.K. to talk in numerals again. Six-and-a-half games. We have a
Of course, neither
team wants to admit as much after the game--except for rookie outfielder Brian
Anderson, who had two big RBIs. Not yet versed in baseball bromides, he nods
vigorously when asked about the series, saying, "Oh, yeah, to go out and
sweep these guys would be huge." (The next day Chicago completes the sweep
with a 7--3 win. Five-and-a-half games.)
He's right, and
despite my flight home on Sunday, I'm tempted to hang around. I've been sucked
into the jet stream of the Central race, and I'm having a hard time bailing
out. Part of it is the games, sure, but part of it is the sense of community
and identity that's particular to sports fans in this part of the country,
where I never stopped being surprised when a stranger offered a hearty hello
just because he and I happened to be at the same park. It brings to mind
something Amy Heinrich, our White Sox waitress, said when I asked her what she
liked most about her job: "No one comes to the ballpark in a bad
Leaving the ballpark, though, is a different story. As I packed for home, I was
heartened by an e-mail that pinged onto my laptop from a certain friend back in
Boston. "Keep in mind," Pete wrote, "the playoffs are a great time
for road trips."
The worst team in the AL Central might have the most entertaining blog. For
more go to SI.com/baseball.