Rain is in the forecast Sunday night. But if the White Sox have their way, it will be raining champagne.
On Saturday night, the Sox moved one step from returning to the World Series for the first time since 1959.
Freddy Garcia carried the starting pitching torch with the Sox's third consecutive complete game, and Paul Konerko hit his second consecutive first-inning home run, this one a three-run shot, en route to an 8-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
It couldn't line up much better for the Sox, who hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. They will try to win the AL pennant with their three hottest pitchers--Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland--lined up if they need as many as seven games.
"I think you have to resist the urge to think about that kind of stuff because it's going to take a lot of our game, being loose, and the best thing we can do is show up and play that one game," said Konerko, who became the first player in Sox history to hit four homers in one postseason.
"If anything, play as if we're one game down, if we can talk ourselves into it. If you start thinking about all the good things that happen in a series, with the history that's going to be talked about, that's when you can be caught flat-footed."
Of the 13 teams that have owned 3-1 leads in the ALCS, 10 have advanced to the World Series.
But the Sox made their own history after Buehrle, Garland and Garcia became the first trio in playoff history to hurl consecutive complete games since the New York Mets' Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack and Jerry Koosman in the first three games of the 1973 NLCS, although Seaver lost Game 1 to the Reds 2-1.
"Now you're really getting close to me because I grew up in New York with Seaver, Koosman, Matlack and Nolan Ryan, Tug McGraw, Ron Taylor and Gary Gentry," Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "I know all those teams because in 1969 and 1973, they were my team.
"They should be flattered, those three [Sox] starting pitchers, to do what they did. You always expect good performances--expect, want and believe. But that's way above and beyond the call of duty, and my expectations are a lot like other people."
Garcia, pitching on seven days' rest mixed in with the birth of his first child, threw with ease in hurling his first complete game since June 30 at Detroit.
He kept the Angels' hitters off balance by throwing off-speed pitches early in the count.
"I was trying to do my job," Garcia said of the friendly competition between the starters. "I tried to follow those guys."
Garcia extended the slumps of Chone Figgins (1-for-14), Garret Anderson (2-for-15) and Vladimir Guerrero (1-for-16).
The Sox have confidence from winning 11 of their last 12 games dating to Sept. 28 at Detroit.
"I think that black cloud of doom lifted once we clinched [the AL Central]," Cooper said. "We've seen the white light. [Critics] had us dead. We're not afraid of death anymore."
Fueling more confidence is the early support from the offense.
Leadoff batter Scott Podsednik set the tone with a walk on eight pitches that helped run up the pitch count by Angels starter Ervin Santana, who was pulled with one out in the fifth after 88 pitches. Podsednik also stole two bases and scored twice.
Designated hitter Carl Everett came through with two-out RBI singles in the third and fifth.
The Sox kept applying pressure and added insurance in the eighth on a two-run single by Joe Crede, who also made two exceptional stops in the sixth.
"This makes me think of the first two months of the season, with more runs," Cooper said. "So it's beautiful."
The Sox caught a break in the second when the Angels' Steve Finley hit into an inning-ending double play, but television replays supported his contention that his bat hit the glove of catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
"We got a break," said Pierzynski, who hit a homer in the fourth.
The Angels rallied from a 3-2 deficit to win the 2002 World Series and will be playing with nothing to lose Sunday night.
Chicago fans remember 2003, when the Cubs blew a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS and lost to Florida--with Sox manager Ozzie Guillen as the Marlins' third-base coach.
"We are not the type of team that is cocky," Guillen said. "I think the cockiest guy is me, and I'm pretty low-key in the playoffs."
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