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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Seattle Sweet Strokes!

by
Guy Bacci

To put it mildly, Sox fans in Seattle have been tortured the past few years. The miserable play of the Southsiders on the West Coast is well documented, and while the Mariners haven’t man-handled the Sox quite as much as the Athletics, the manner in which the Sox have lost in Seattle has been excruciating at best.

After going 1-5 in Seattle in 2001, including a blown-save loss in mid-August, Chicago opened the 2002 campaign in the Emerald City with a promising win by Mark Buehrle (besting Freddy Garcia). The Sox were poised to win the series, carrying a three-run lead into the ninth-inning of the finale, before Keith Foulke allowed four runs to score, sending Safeco Field into a frenzy.

In 2003, the Mariners outscored the Sox 35-22 while winning four of six contests in Seattle. The following year, it was Billy Koch’s turn to join the blown-save parade. Once again, the Sox were poised to win the series, before Koch decided to walk in the winning run on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. (The bright side to that low moment was that Koch would never close for the Sox again.)

And let’s not even mention the nightmarish third game of the 2000 ALDS, which proceeded all of the above.

But a few sweet strokes by Brian Anderson and a glorious bomb by Tadahito Iguchi were nearly enough to erase all the bad memories, or at least dull them a bit. Friday night’s affair in Seattle was arguably the best Sox victory on the West Coast in years. It was an amazing game to behold, particularly from 25 rows behind home plate. Mariners’ 19-year-old phenom Felix Hernandez displayed a curveball with enough break to make fans buckle from the upper deck. El Duque’s hook was downright nasty, keeping Mariner hitters off balance for eight innings. Everything from small-ball bunting (including a successful suicide squeeze by Seattle early in the game) to long-ball bashing (four in total, including the first two career homers for Anderson) had a critical impact on the outcome. And it was sweet to see Iguchi redeem himself with a game-winning, two-run homer of Eddie Guardado after stranding Anderson on third base just a couple innings prior.

Saturday evening had all the makings of another ugly West Cost disaster. After building a four-run lead, on the strength of homers from Jermaine Dye and Carl Everett, the Sox slowly began to give it away. But one fantastic relay throw to nail Ichiro at the plate and a double-play grounder later, the Sox had done something they hadn’t done in five years: win a series in Seattle.

And throughout it all, White Sox Nation was well represented. Clusters of Sox fans could be seen cheering across Safeco, and most importantly, they didn’t do so in an obnoxious fashion. A Sox fan seated just a few rows behind me said, “I feel bad cheering in someone else’s park. I have respect for the fans of the home team.” Imagine hearing something like that from the swarms of Cubbie faithful who feel the need to tweak every stadium they visit with lengthy chants of “Let’s go Cubs.”

Instead, Sox fans politely stood and applauded when their team scored, and exchanged a few friendly high-gives whenever they’d run into a fellow Southsider. I defy the geniuses at a well-known all-sports network to see all the Sox paraphernalia on display at Safeco Field—in a city 2,000 miles away from Chicago—and maintain there is no White Sox Nation.

And with the lead back up to nine games as of Saturday, the fear-mongers among the Nation can a take a deep breath or two and stop trying to convince everyone the Sox will be having an epic collapse. It won’t happen, no matter how dismal their offense may be.

In defense of the Dark Clouds, there is reason to be concerned come October. For the longest time, the 2005 White Sox appeared to defy logic. They simply couldn’t lose, no matter how questionable their lineup seemed. They’d always manage to get enough runs, and back it up with incredible pitching and solid defense. But after a recent seven-game losing streak, the sense of invulnerability is gone. Even during the recent victories in Seattle, the Sox failed to take advantage of great scoring opportunities. It’s those kinds of lost chances that could devastate this team in a playoff series.

On the bright side, the fact that the Indians’ winning ways have placed mild importance on the games in September ensures that the Sox can’t coast down the stretch. They’ll have to stay focused for much longer than we thought would, and that could be a good thing. Sox fans remember how the 2000 team limped into the playoffs with injuries and a lack of urgency. With 13 games remaining against the Tribe and Twinkies this season, there will be some excitement down the stretch.

But first things first. The Sox must survive a double-header in Texas and a makeup game in Boston. They play 21 games in 20 days. It’s a grueling stretch, but the Nation is as ready as ever.

Even if some like to think our Nation doesn’t exist.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back. He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player. His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay). Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

More features from Guy Bacci here!

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