In which a young, speedy, up 2-0 Rays squad seeks to “Steve Irwin” the fatter, slower White Sox and advance to the ALCS. The hitch: the old guys are armed with bats and have home lagoon advantage.   It’s Garza (11-9, 3.70) vs. Danks (12-9, 3.22) vs. a rain-soaked US Cellular field…

Top 1:  Iwamura singles past Danks to get things started…Upton strikes out swinging, Pena pokes one past Konerko and puts Iawmura on third.  Hello, Evan Longoria..slices to right and a charging Jermaine Dye makes the grab and holds Iawmura to third…Crawford checks a grounder back to Danks for the put out.

Bot 1: Cabrera grounds to third for the first out…AJ  pop foul out…Dye sends one to shallow left exactly where Crawford is generally camped out.  A 1-2-3 playoff inning for a Chicago squad not wearing blue: how novel.

Top 2: Danks throws right at Aybar and he pops an 0-2 fastball to left for out one…Navarro doubles to left thanks to a pokey jump by Dewayne Goddamn Wise…Baldelli swings-a da bat-a anna grounds-a out-a 4-3 while Navarro advances..Bartlett fouls his way to 2-2…Danks fires low, 3-2..outside, doesn’t bite, ball four.  Iawmura up, already 1 for 1. 1-1…1-2 on a high breaker…2-2…tapper infield single scores Navarro…Rays 1 Sox 0…Upton to the plate, wild pitch off of AJ’s glove…scored a passed ball..popped to Wise in left…Wise, presumably having finished his phone call to his mother makes the grab for out #3.

Bot 2: Jim Thome, 1 for 4 against Garza, and is it any surprise that the 1 is a longball?…1-1…2-1…3-1..a South Side pigeon pecking around on the 1B foul line remains unimpressed with Gentleman Jim Thome and his fouls off of Garza…3-2…Thome struck out upstairs swinging at ball 4…Paulie up…2-0…popped foul in the backstop for two out…hello, Junior…pigeon even less impressed with Griffey…Navarro gets up and kicks dirt at the sky rat, Garza follows up with a swat with his mitt…this is some kind of teamwork for those two since they were once at each other throats in the dugout…pigeon finally in fowl territory..and Junior drops a shallow-center single in front of Upton…a second sewer falcon has arrived and is in front of Alexei Ramirez as he fouls to left…only to get out of the way for Ramirez’ limp grounder to second.

Top 3: Pena up…and Pena down with Danks’ second K..Longoria long fly to left, Wise under it…2 out…Crawford…flings the bat and sends a shot to Cabrera, who barely gets it out of his shirt pocket to make the out at first.  Danks has retired four.

Bot 3: The infield now cleared of squab, Wise may bunt..1-1…2-1..3-1 missed change..fouled ball four…3-2…inside at the elbow, take your base Dewayne…Juan Uribe up and looking pleased…suddenly ugly theories as to where the pigeons ended up present themselves…rocket shot to first, Wise awake enough to get back into the bag!  Nice!  1 out..Cabrera goes a wordless 0-2…then he bites at a slider for the out…AJ Simpson playing games with Garza, looking at Wise at first while he was in his windup…now 1-2…Wise goes, Navarro’s throw bites the grass and sends it into center but Bartlett lays on Wise at the bag not only saving third but making a regulation WWF takedown…AJ singles a dead breaker up the middle to score Wise Rays 1 Sox 1…outfield deepens for Dye….bouncer 5-4.

Top 4:  Aybar faces Danks’s high offerings, pops to center…Navarro lines to left and Wise is again asleep on his jump a single results…Rocco Baldelli pops-a waaay high inna de air-a for out-a numero due…Bartlett’s up…2-0…2-1…Bartlett pairs up with Baldelli’s pop-up to get the Sox, (if not myself) out of the inning with dignity intact.

Bot 4: Jim Thome takes Garza’s first-pitch mistake fastball off the wall for a double..Konerko up…2-1…Garza’s curves aren’t cutting any ice with the Sox on this go-around…3-1 high…3-2, swings at a dirtball…WALK!…Jim Hickey out to talk to Garza, which may be a challenge given that the hurler has earplugs in..Steve Stone must be reading this liveblog, because he said the same thing just now – quit biting my beats, Stone Pony…Griffey lifts one to right to load em up with wheezing, panting, elderly White Sox…Alexei Ramirez sends one to Upton in center, scores Thome and Griffey slides into second – safe!  Rays 1 Sox 2 Wise DOUBLES to left and drives in Griffey and Konerko…  Rays 1 Sox 4…Rays pen still not up…Uribe up, displaying one of his many batting stances…struck out on an outside crapball…Cabrera to the plate…jammed 6-3.  Muchas gracias, Senor Garza!

Top 5: Iwamura shows bunt…0-2..shot down swinging on a slider out of the zone..BJ Upton, looking to add one more entry to his resume after “failed to throw out Ken Griffey Jr. at second, 2008” goes 2-2…K!  That’s Danks’s 4th K…Pena flies to left.

Bot 5:  Garza’s complaints about the pitching mound landing area have brought out Sox groundskeeper Roger Bossard, a cadre of assistants and an implement resembling a Garden Weasel.  Garza immediately brushes away the changes made with his foot. Further complaints are issued, shovels are produced and the scene resembles one of the less exciting HGTV specials…AJ is up, fastballs are still high…leadoff double for AJ and BJ Upton breaks Dewayne Wise’s monopoly on late jumps…Jim Thome takes a “strike” at the socks…0-2, 1-2, 2-2 check swing, 3-2 dirtball…WALK! ..Miller up in the Rays pen…Konerko faces Garza with one out and two on over a horribly scarred pitcher’s mound…1-1, 2-1 way outside, fouled, 5-4-3 DP.

Top 6: In the matter of Danks v. Longoria, 3-0 becomes 3-1…and a leadoff walk results…the 0-2 Carl Crawford gets ball 1 inside, prompting AJ to personally return the ball..2-0 wide outside…Ozzie comes to the mound, Dotel getting up in the pen…2-1 for Crawford…3-1 check swing..3-2 fastball at the knees…HITS the inside corner for strike three, have a seat Carl.  Thornton joins Dotel in the pen…Aybar: 1-2, PUNCHES him out on an inside cutter, 2 out. Navarro takes strike 1…fans up and vocal…1-1, fouled back 1-2, 2-2, the air filled with the sound of baseball fans, pay attention to how it’s done, Wrigleyville – Navarro popped to Dye — 3 outs.

Bot 6: Garza in against a 2 for 2 Ken Griffey:2-2, 3-2, ball in the stands,and his 83rd pitch walks Junior, Brian Anderson pinch-running, not that BJ Upton’s arm is a threat or anything…Alexe goes 1-1, Anderson goes and Navarro can’t dig the ball out of the dirt…2-2, sharp chop to Longoria’s right who gets Alexei by half a step, Anderson on third…Wise sends a line shot to Pena who looks at Anderson then takes the play at first…Uribe laces a fastball to left, Rays 1 Sox 5..Cabrera swings,Uribe goes, Navarro’s throw to second short – Uribe safe at second..Wild Pitch!  Garza sends one off the plate and sends Uribe to third…Cabrera tries to bunt, was probably news to Uribe….1-2….Cabrera, as he has all day, swings at a high outside dead slider.

Top 7: Johnny Danks sends a cutter to Rocco “Rocco” Baldelli for strike two, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, missed low and walked the leadoff man again.  93 pitches. Bartlett takes ball 1,ball 2, all low, 2-1, in there 2-2, punched out on a change that’s still headed to the plate as I type…Iwamura up…popped up short left, with wind heading hard west and nobody else after it, Wise keeps it interesting…2 out…BJ Upton sends a Danks fastball over the wall for a two run homer in left…Rays 3 Sox 5…Pena 1-1, 2-1,line drive drops to right for a single and Danks will get the hook to a standing O…

Octavio Dotel trots out to the mound, the entire Sox season riding on his kneesocks, 3.76 ERA and sporadic control. Longoria up first. Check 0-1, 0-2 on a straight change, fouled off a heater, 1-2 in the dirt, wild pitch moves Pena to second…belt-high heater gets him looking!

Bot 7: Garza gone – 6IP 5R 7H 4BB 4K – Trever Miller (4.15 ERA) in…AJ leads off..2-0, 3-0, Pena visits the mound…and Miller coughs up Ball four.  Madden pulls Miller and swaps for submariner righty Chad Bradford (2.12 ERA) …Dye in the box…Ball one!..check foul…4-6-3 double play ball right to Iwamura…Thome…0-1, 1-1, 2-1 almost hit him and certainly should have,pop to Upton instead.

Top 8:  Enter Matt Thornton to face Crawford…1-0, 1-1, 1-2 heater on the corner, tap foul, grounder 5-3 and a nice recovery out of the dirt by Konerko…Aybar chops a roller up the 1B line, Thornton grabs and plays Right Tackle to Aybar’s Left Guard in the tag…Navarro walks…Baldelli flies to center….three more outs…

Bot 8: Gabe Gross in RF because-a Signori Baldelli is-a all-a pooped-out.  Bradford’s subterranean hinijks work Konerko to 0-2…2 fouls, fly ball to left, can of corn for Crawford…speaking of delicious corn, Bobby Jenks is up and throwing…Brian Anderson takes a sinker for ball 1, which, from Bradford, rises and sinks like my Bohemian grandmother’s dumplings…Anderson swings at a rising slider for srike three..bacon gravy usually accompanied these dumplings, dumplings that weighed more than 2B Alexei Ramirez, who is worked 2-0…bunt foul…3-1…foul tipped ball 4, 3-2…1-3 chopper and that’s all she wrote. See, you’d put them in the boiling water and they’d sink, then rise up then sink again.  So good.


Bartlett takes two balls. 2-1…3-1…tapped foul a 95MPH up and in 3-2..foul…pop to Cabrera. Two more. Iwamura grounds right back to Bobby who grabs it like a calzone for the toss to Konerko…Upton takes 2-0 and then singles to left bringing the tying run to home plate… Pena v. Jenks: foul 0-1…96 MPH…0-2 (95)..bedlam in the park…THE HAMMER and off go the fireworks!

Chicago: you’re welcome for the rescue of your civic dignity as regards matters of playoff baseball. Don’t mention it.  And by that, I mean I’m sure you won’t mention it.