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February 1 2007

We're running out of '07 Phillies who have World Series experience, but not quite done.  Aaron Rowand and Freddy Garcia won it all with the White Sox in 2005.

If you wonder why some people see the addition of Freddy Garcia to the Phillies rotation as such a big deal, part of the answer is simply what Garcia has done in the biggest games of his life.  In the 2005 post-season, in his two starts in the ALCS and World Series combined, Garcia went 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA.  In 16 innings he allowed ten hits and four walks while striking out 12.

After finishing second in the AL Central for three straight years and falling short of the playoffs, the White Sox finally won the division in 2005.  They finished 99-63 and finished six full games ahead of the Cleveland Indians.

The team rode the back of their tremendous pitching staff, which threw to a 3.61 ERA overall, tied for best in the AL that season.  Four White Sox pitchers, Garcia, who went 14-8 with a 3.87 ERA, Jose Conteras, Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle all got at least 30 starts and threw to an ERA under four.

Their offense was led by first baseman Paul Konerko, who had 40 home runs and 100 RBI while hitting 283/375/534.  Rowand, coming off of a monster season where he had hit 310/361/544 with 24 home runs, was off the pace in '05.  In 578 at-bats as the team's everyday center fielder, Rowand hit 270/329/407 with just 13 home runs.  It was a miserable year for Rowand -- the .407 slugging percentage he posted was 67th among the 80 players in his league with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title.  By comparison, his .544 in '04 was seventh in the AL and higher than Konerko's in '05 when Konerko hit 40 home runs.

The White Sox swept away world champion Boston in three games of the ALDS.  Garcia started game three in Boston and allowed three runs on three solo homers over five innings.  Ortiz got him in the fourth and Manny Ramirez hit a pair, one in the fourth and one in the sixth that demonstrated it was time for Garcia to go with Chicago on top 4-3.  The White Sox held on to take the game 5-3 and the series.  Rowand was 4-for-10 in the series with an RBI-single off of Matt Clement in game one and and RBI-double off of David Wells in game two.

In the ALCS, Chicago faced the Anaheim Angels, who had beaten the Yankees three games to two in the other divisional series -- the Angels took game one before the White Sox whipped off four in a row to take the series.  Garcia started game four with the White Sox up two games to one and was awesome, throwing a complete game while holding the Angels to two runs on six hits and a walk.  Rowand was just 3-for-18 in the series with three doubles and an RBI.

The White Sox were on to the World Series to meet the NL's unlikely winners, the Houston Astros.  The wild card-winning Astros finished second in the NL Central with an 89-73 and plowed through the Braves, Padres and Cardinals to make the World Series.

Jose Contreras got the start for Chicago in game one and gave the White Sox seven innings.  Chicago pulled ahead 4-3 on a Joe Crede homer in the bottom of the fourth and the Astros never got any closer.  The game ended 5-3.  Rowand was 1-for-3 with single, a walk and a strikeout.

Game two saw Mark Buehrle take the hill against Andy Pettitte in a battle of lefties.  Rowand singled and scored a run in the second, helping to put the Sox up 2-1 early.  In the bottom of the sixth, with his team down 4-2 and two down and Carl Everett on first, Rowand doubled Everett to third but both were stranded when AJ Pierzynski popped out to short to end the inning.  Still down 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Jermaine Dye was hit by a pitch with two outs to load the bases for the White Sox, although many believe the replay of the pitch suggest the ball hit the bat and not Dye's hand.  Either way, Konerko followed with a grand slam that put Chicago on top 6-4.  The Astros tied the game at 6-6 on a two-run single by pinch-hitter Jose Vizcaino in the top of the ninth before Scott Podsednik hit a walk-off solo shot with one out in the bottom of the ninth to end the game and put the Sox up two games to none.  Rowand ended the day 2-for-4 with a run scored.

Jon Garland and Roy Oswalt drew the starts for game three.  Down 4-0 heading into the inning, the White Sox scored five times in the top of the fifth.  They held their 5-4 lead until the bottom of the eighth when Jason Lane knocked in Morgan Ensberg to tie the game at 5-5.  With two outs in the top of the ninth and Konerko on second, Rowand had a chance to put Chicago on top but struck out.  Rowand got another at-bat to lead off the 12th, but struck out again.  The teams went to the top of the 14th, still tied at 5-5.  With two outs and nobody on in the top of the 14th, Geoff Blum's homer put the Sox up 6-5.  Rowand followed Blum with a single and Crede singled behind him.  Juan Uribe walked to load the bases and Chris Widger drew another walk, forcing home Rowand to put Chicago up 7-5 before Podsednik struck out to end the inning.  Damaso Marte and unlikely closer Buehrle managed to keep the Astros off the board in the bottom of the 14th and Chicago got out up three games to none.  On the day Rowand was 1-for-6 with a walk and three strikeouts.

Freddy Garcia got the start in game four and came up huge in the biggest game of his life.  He struck out seven in seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and three walks.  Brandon Backe matched him with an excellent outing of his own, and the game was tied into the eighth inning when Dye's single plated Willie Harris and put the Sox up 1-0.  The Chicago pen held Houston down the rest of the way and the White Sox won the game and the series.  Rowand was 1-for-4 with a single and struck out twice.

There's a preview of the '07 Phillies at Rototimes.

Ruben Amaro says efforts to avoid arbitration with Brett Myers and Geoff Geary are going well.  The hearing dates have been set.  Myers would have his hearing on February 15 and Geary on February 19 if no agreement is reached first.

Manny Acta says that Ryan Church would be the Nats left fielder if the season started today.

Audio of Gillick talking with reporters yesterday afternoon here.  Starting pitching should be better.  Chase is an important part of the team.  And so on.  Also a little more on what led to the signings of Alfonseca and Garcia.  He seems to suggest if Burrell's not moving well in spring training it might increase the chances of Roberson or Bourn making the team as a fifth outfielder so they could sub for him defensively in late innings.  I'd be surprised if either Bourn or Roberson starts the season with the Phils.

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