White Sox 7, Astros 5, 14 innings

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HOUSTON (AP)—Ten, 11, 12, 13 innings. No one could break through.

Not the Chicago White Sox, who waited 46 years to get back to the World Series. Not the Houston Astros, who’ve never been here before.

Finally, in the 14th inning, after 5 hours and 41 minutes, former Astro Geoff Blum won the longest game in World Series history with a tiebreaking, two-out solo homer, and Chicago beat Houston 7-5 Wednesday morning to move within a win of a sweep and its first title since 1917.

“It’s the stuff dreams are made of,” Blum said. “I’ve had about a 100 of these at-bats in the backyard with my younger brother.”

Long after Chicago overcame a 4-0 deficit with five runs in the fifth inning against Roy Oswalt and Jason Lane hit a tying double for Houston in the eighth off Dustin Hermanson, Blum batted for the first time in a World Series with two outs in the 14th and faced Ezequiel Astacio, Houston’s seventh pitcher.

With nearly all the fans remaining from the original crowd of 42,848 in Minute Maid Park, Blum sent a 2-0 pitch down the right-field line, and the ball sailed over the wall.

“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was high enough to get out,” Blum said. “I don’t think I blinked or looked at anybody until I made it (to) home plate and knew it was for real.”

The White Sox picked up Blum from San Diego on July 31, right before the trading deadline. A starter with Houston in 2002-03, he’s been mostly a backup since then and entered the game in the 13th as part of a double-switch. He’s had quite a year—his wife, Kory, gave birth to triplets on May 3.

“I think it came to a head when the ball went out of the ballpark,” he said.

While Blum was circling the bases in joy, Houston manager Phil Garner slammed a stool in the dugout.

“Unfortunately, that pitch got away from me,” Astacio said.

Astacio allowed Chicago to load the bases on two infield singles and a walk, then forced in a run by walking Chris Widger on a 3-2 pitch.

Houston put runners at the corners in the bottom half against winner Damaso Marte when Orlando Palmeiro walked with one out and Brad Ausmus reached when shortstop Juan Uribe misplayed his two-out grounder for an error.

Mark Buehrle, who pitched seven innings in Game 2 on Sunday night, came in, Chicago’s ninth pitcher and the 17th of the game, both Series records.

Adam Everett then popped to shortstop for the final out at 1:20 a.m. local time. The previous longest game was 4:51 when the Yankees beat the Mets in 12 innings in Game 1 in 2000. This matched the longest by innings, a Babe Ruth complete game for the Boston Red Sox against Brooklyn in 1916.

There were 482 pitches, 245 by the White Sox and 237 by the Astros.

“Who told me baseball was easy?” Astros owner Drayton McLane said.

Freddy Garcia tries to complete the sweep for Chicago on Wednesday night, opposed by Brandon Backe. No team has ever overcome a 3-0 World Series deficit, and only one major league team has done it in any round of the postseason—the Boston Red Sox in last year’s AL championship series against the New York Yankees.

“All three of these games—up and down,” Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “You think you’re going to lose, you think you’re going to win. It’s been incredible. It’s been a crazy Series.”

Houston, which got only one hit after the fourth inning, stranded 15 runners. The Astros left the potential winning run at third base in the ninth and at second base in the 10th and 11th.

“It’s some pretty poor hitting, absolute rotten hitting,” Garner said. “We might have played 40 innings and it didn’t look (like) we were going to get a runner across.”

Houston escaped a two-on, two-outs jam in the 11th when Chad Qualls retired pinch-hitter Timo Perez on a groundout and eliminated possible trouble in the 13th when Scott Podsednik bunted into a double play with no outs. Paul Konerko grounded into a double play just before Blum’s homer.

In the first World Series game played in the state of Texas, a sellout crowd of 42,848 filled Minute Maid Park with plenty of noise—but less than the Astros had hoped for. Against the wishes of the home team, Major League Baseball ordered the retractable roof open for the game because the skies were cloudless and the temperature a comfortable 61 degrees at game time. Houston wanted the roof closed, to increase the decibels.

Oswalt, 3-0 in the postseason coming in, couldn’t hold the 4-0 lead, allowing five runs in a 46-pitch fifth inning—the most pitches he’s thrown in an inning in his career. He gave up five runs, eight hits and five walks in six-plus innings, the most runs he’s allowed at home since the season opener against St. Louis on April 5.

After giving up three runs in the first four innings, Jon Garland pitched shutout ball for the next four. But for the second straight game, Chicago’s bullpen faltered.

Cliff Politte walked Morgan Ensberg with two outs in the eighth, and left-hander Neal Cotts came in and walked Mike Lamb.

Instead of bringing in Bobby Jenks to face Lane, Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen summoned Hermanson for his first appearance of the postseason in order to save Jenks for extra innings. Lane drove a 1-2 pitch over the third-base bag for a tying double that put the potential go-ahead run on third. Hermanson then got Ausmus to take a called third strike.

Houston had a chance to win it in the ninth when Chris Burke walked with one out against Orlando Hernandez, took third as El Duque threw away a pickoff attempt for an error and stole third on the next pitch. But Hernandez struck out Willy Taveras, intentionally walked Lance Berkman, then struck out Ensberg to send the game into extra innings.

Luis Vizcaino, in his first appearance since the regular-season finale on Oct. 2, came in when Hernandez appeared to get hurt while walking Palmeiro, who pinch hit leading off the 10th. After a two-out walk—Houston’s fifth in two innings, Burke hit an inning-ending comebacker. Hernandez left because of tightness in his neck.

“To come out and lose again and to lose like this is draining,” Ausmus said.

Chicago had two on with two outs in the 11th after Podsednik’s leadoff single and stolen base, but Perez grounded out, and Houston had two on with two outs in the bottom half when Jenks, who came in to start the inning, retired Palmeiro on a grounder.

Berkman hit a run-scoring single back in the first, his sixth RBI of the Series. Houston made it 3-0 in the third on RBI singles by Biggio and Ensberg, unearned runs because Uribe’s throw hit Everett for an error during a rundown.

Lane hit a long home run to left-center in the fourth, and fireworks went off beyond the train tracks high above the field. But when the smoke cleared, the White Sox came back in the fifth on Joe Crede’s leadoff homer, RBI singles by Tadahito Iguchi and Jermaine Dye, and Pierzynski’s two-run double to center that rolled up Tal’s Hill, the 10-degree slope built as an homage to Cincinnati’s old Crosley Field.

“We have to forget this,” Berkman said.

Notes

The 43 players used by both teams also was a Series record, as was the combined 30 runners left on base. … Chicago is trying to match the 1999 New York Yankees as the only teams to go through the postseason with just one loss since the extra round of playoffs was added in 1995. … Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Houston’s Roger Clemens, who left Saturday’s opener after two innings because of a left hamstring injury, remains “penciled in” to start Game 5 Thursday.

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