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White Sox can't help Garland out
The 2005 season and all its glory seemed once again like an awfully distant memory Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
It was 23 months ago that the White Sox dispatched the Los Angeles Angels in five ALCS games in a surreal October. Everyone knows what happened next.
Now it's 2007. The Angels are steaming toward another AL West title, and the last-place Sox did little to delay them, falling 2-1 before an announced and chilly crowd of 36,485.
Jim Thome's pursuit of 500 career home runs remained stuck on 499 as Jered Weaver (12-7) and three relievers kept him in the park while handing Jon Garland (9-12) a hard-luck loss. Garland left after seven innings trailing 2-1, the go-ahead run set up by a throwing error.
The Angels can small-ball it with the best of them. They peppered Garland for nine singles in the first five innings and added three more runners on two walks and an error. But they had only two runs to show for all that traffic because of some atypically sharp Sox defense.
Garland bailed himself out by starting a 1-4-3 double play with two on and nobody out in the first, and Scott Podsednik cut down Casey Kotchman at the plate with a strong throw from left field to end the second. In the third, Jermaine Dye robbed Kotchman by making a diving grab of his sinking liner with two outs and two runners moving.
Thome, meanwhile, took three fruitless shots at Weaver, drawing a two-out walk in the first, striking out swinging to end the third and popping out to short leading off the sixth. Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez got him on a called third strike leading off the ninth.
General manager Ken Williams gave a fairly expansive "state of the White Sox" interview on WSCR-AM 670, the team's flagship radio station, before the game. He acknowledged that changes were coming over the winter but insisted the Sox "are a better team than what we've played" and cited starting pitching depth and the middle of the batting order as strengths.
"I would never have envisioned us being at or near the bottom in as many hitting categories as we are," Williams said.
While generally satisfied with the progress of the young players force-fed into the lineup, Williams identified areas where improvement is needed. Josh Fields, he said, should drive pitches away from him to right-center field and cut down on his strikeouts. Danny Richar needs to adjust to the speed of the big-league game, particularly in the field, and react to the ball better. Jerry Owens has to make better use of his speed.
Come game time, the kids appeared to be listening. Richar saved a run with a diving stop of Jeff Mathis' grounder in the fourth. Owens was a busy guy at the plate, driving in the Sox's lone run with a single in the second, keeping the fifth alive with a two-out infield single and stealing two bases.
Owens reached on another infield single with one out in the eighth but wandered too far off first as Podsednik was striking out, and Mathis picked him off.
Maybe it's no wonder Ozzie Guillen didn't sound ready to commit to Richar or Owens as everyday players next season.
"With kids you've got to be careful who you put around them," he said. "It's difficult to compete with as many young guys as we've had to play ... we're in last place."