American League: Chicago White Sox (99-63) - Fifth World Series (Won in 1906, 1917)
National League: Houston Astros (89-73) - First World Series
A couple of long droughts ended in the 2005 World Series. Buoyed by a powerful lineup and the deepest starting rotation in the game, the White Sox survived the American League playoffs to make their first World Series since 1959. Meanwhile, the Astros ended years of playoff frustration by finally breaking through in 2005, advancing to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. The two teams played four tense, tight games in a row, completing what has to go down as the most competitive sweep in World Series history.
One of the biggest reasons for the Astros finally reaching the World Series was the acquisition of Roger Clemens the year before. Though it wasn't an acquisition so much as a bribe to get him out of retirement, the Astros rode Clemens to Game 7 of the ALCS in 2004 and, finally, to the World Series in 2005. It was fitting, then that Clemens got the start in the first World Series game in Astros history.
Clemens wasn't himself, however, aggravating a groin injury that had originally bothered him in the regular season. He had to come out after two innings, and though the game was tied 3-3, his absence was a big blow to the Astros' confidence. After a Joe Crede gave the White Sox a 4-3 lead, the Astros' old postseason problems came back to haunt them, as Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell failed to drive in the go-ahead run in back-to-back innings. A Scott Podsednik triple gave the White Sox an extra win and a 1-0 lead in the series.
Following Game 1, the two teams played three of best back-to-back-to-back games the World Series has seen. The madness started in Game 2, when the teams traded momentum-shifting hits like they were playing Go Fish. First was Lance Berkman's two-run double to give the Astros a 4-2 lead in the fifth. Then came the bottom of the seventh when, with two outs, a walk and a hit batter loaded the bases for Paul Konerko, who promptly hit a grand slam to put the White Sox back ahead. Then came the top of the ninth when, with the Astros down to their last out, Jose Vizcaino hit a two-run single to tie the game again. If all that wasn't enough, Podsednik, the one slap hitter on a lineup of bashers, the man who didn't hit a home run in the regular season, ended the game with a home run in the bottom of the ninth.
Chicago was in bedlam, Houston was in shock, and the teams caught their breath as the World Series headed to Houston for the first time ever. They needed that breath, too, as they were about to embark on the longest game in World Series history. The Astros were up 4-0 after four innings, but the White Sox scored five in the fifth off Roy Oswalt. After Jason Lane tied the game in the 8th, the teams played six innings featuring blown offensive chances and desperate managerial moves. For the Astros, the run of innings was downright embarrassing: three runners left on in the ninth, two in the 10th, two in the 11th, one in the 13th.
Finally, perhaps sick of letting Houston hang around, the White Sox broke through in the 14th, taking the lead on a leadoff home run, then adding a run on a bases-loaded walk. When the Astros threatened again, Ozzie Guillen brought in Game 2 starter Mark Buerhle in relief - five innings after using Game 1 starter Orlando Hernandez in relief. Buerhle got the out he needed, and the White Sox were a win away from their first title since 1917.
It's no surprise, though, that they had to work for it. Houston's Brandon Backe threw seven shutout innings, matching the string of zeroes put up by Chicago's Freddy Garcia. The White Sox finally broke through against Houston closer Brad Lidge, with Jermaine Dye getting at two-out single in the 8th for the game's first run. Houston again threatened, getting two runners on in the 8th and one in the ninth. Just like the rest of the series, though, they couldn't get it done late. The White Sox got two straight great defensive plays from shortstop Juan Uribe to close things out, and they celebrated their first championship since the Wilson administration.
Any of the last three games could have qualified, but it's hard to ignore a 14-inning marathon, featuring blown chances nearly every inning after the seventh. Game 3 was the longest World Series game by time of game in history and tied Game 2 of the 1916 Series for longest game by innings.
It's hard to pick an MVP of a sweep, but the voters got this one right. They probably would have picked Dye because of his series-clinching hit regardless of what the rest of this numbers looked like, but it helped that he was Chicago's best hitter throughout the series.
(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:
62. 2005 - Chicago (A) def. Houston (N) 4-0
63. 1950 - New York (A) def. Philadelphia (N) 4-0
64. 1906 - Chicago (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-2
65. 1981 - Los Angeles (N) def. New York (A) 4-2
66. 1943 - New York (A) def. St. Louis (N) 4-1
67. 1954 - New York (N) def. Cleveland (A) 4-0
68. 1978 - New York (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-2
69. 2006 - St. Louis (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-1