Tonight I did something I rarely do, participated in a reading, which went well, but half my attention was on Major League Baseball's Championship Series ended tonight. In fact, the baseball game was playing in the main room of the Chicago bar where the reading was taking place.
As I learned when the literary festivities ended, the Houston Astros defeated my favorite team, St. Louis Cardinals 5-1, behind the excellent pitching of Astro Roy Oswalt, and timely hits, to take the National League pennant. The Astros, who finished with a 4-2 record against the Cardinals, now go to the world series for the first time in their 44-year-history. Though the Redbirds had defeated Houston in their season series, they failed at what had been their chief strengths from April to September: starting pitching, clean fielding and steady hitting. Their starters led the team to the lowest ERA in the league (even better than Houston's pitchers), but this year the team only won the games started by Chris Carpenter. Tonight, Jim Edmonds misplayed a ball in the field, and in several of the games the Cardinals flubbed plays, allowing the Astros chances they could not afford. Outside of Albert Pujols's monster bat, and his dramatic, game-winning home run two nights ago, in Houston, the Cardinals couldn't hit their way out a wet-paper bag, which sadly and disturbingly mirrored their performance last postseason. Meanwhile, Houston got superb pitching from the starters, middle-relievers and closers, made almost no errors, and despite being blanked repeatedly during the regular season, ate the Cardinals' pitching up. Tonight's starter Mark Mulder threw a ball behind Craig Biggio, leading to one run, then served up a home run to Jason Lane, leading to two more. Cardinals reliever Jason Marquis, a starter all season, served up another run, and reliever Julián Tavares did his part, giving Houston its 5th tally. More bad officiating, which has plagued the divisional and championship series, did not help; the Cardinals had mustered a rally, but Yadier Molina was called out at second, ending what was the Redbirds' best scoring opportunity. Now, the Astros regroup and head to the Windy City to face the Chicago White Sox.
The Chicago White Sox haven't won a World Series since 1917, and haven't been in one since 1959. They got this far this year mainly on the dazzling arms of their starters. José Contreras, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, and Freddy García pitched four straight complete games to take the American League Champion Series pennant from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and they are as good as matchup as exists to challenge the Astros' Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and Oswalt. Contreras has been the best pitcher in the AL over the last two months, and he demonstrated his control in his winning start against the Angels. Buehrle and Garland were the workhorses of the 2005 season, and neither has shown any ill effects in the playoffs. García faltered a bit, but won his start and appears to be ready to help bring Chicago its first World Series championship since the era of World War II. The Chicago batters, however, will have to keep hitting, and manager Ozzie Guillén, whose emotions guide his compass, will have to rein them in and use some strategy if his hitters aren't knocking in runs.
I think Chicago has the better team, so I give it to them, in 6. I'm rooting for them this go round. Go White Sox!