The 2005 baseball season was a repeat—in a way. The 2004 season had ended with a franchise named the Sox ending an 86-year drought to win a championship. In 2005, another franchise named the Sox ended an 88-year drought. The Sox simply changed from Red to White, and the champagne went from Boston to Chicago.
Chicago did it with the best pitching in the American League. The rotation of Mark Buerhle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, and Jose Contreras all won at least 14 games, all had ERAs in the 3s, and all logged over 200 innings. The offense wasn’t great, but with Paul Konerko hitting 40 homers and driving in 100 runs, they scored enough to win.
The White Sox jumped out to a nine-game lead in the AL Central by the All-Star break and were still holding steady on Labor Day. At that point, the Cleveland Indians came barreling down the stretch. The Tribe got big years from catcher Victor Martinez, centerfielder Grady Sizemore, and designated hitter Travis Hafner, the latter finishing fifth in the AL MVP voting. The rotation trio of Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook, and C.C. Sabathia combined to win 48 games.
Cleveland closed to within three games with three to play, and that final series was against Chicago. The White Sox won on Friday night and held off the charge. The Indians were still in a ferocious fight for what was then a single wild-card berth against the behemoths of the AL East.
The historic rivalry between the Red Sox and the New York Yankees was burning hot, with the two teams having played seven-game ALCS battles each of the two previous years. And they were both loaded again in 2005
New York got an MVP season from third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who hit .321, slugged 48 home runs, drove in 130 runs, scored 124 more, and stole 21 bags. Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield each had 100-plus RBIs. Sheffield and Jason Giambi each hit over 30 home runs. Derek Jeter, the great shortstop, batted .309.
Boston got monster years from leftfielder Manny Ramirez and legendary DH David Ortiz. Manny batted .292, homered 45 times and posted 145 RBIs. Manny finished fourth in the MVP vote. Ortiz, unbelievably, was even better, with a .300 batting average, 47 home runs and 148 ribbies. Ortiz was the runner-up to A-Rod in the MVP vote. Johnny Damon set the table for the two sluggers with a .316 batting average.
The Red Sox and Yanks were 1-2 in runs scored, but you haven’t heard any pitchers mentioned. While Randy Johnson won 17 games for New York, both teams struggled on the mound. As a result, they came down the stretch in a tight race for the division title, but unable to get separation from the Indians in the wild-card race.
New York and Boston were going head-to-head on that same final weekend that Chicago and Cleveland were battling. Coming into Saturday, the Red Sox and Yanks were tied for first, with both teams up a game on the Indians.
Cleveland lost again to Chicago on Saturday. New York won in Fenway Park and clinched a playoff berth. In the final Sunday, the Red Sox returned the favor, clinching their own playoff spot, and the AL East race ended in a tie. The Yankees got the seeding advantage, so the Red Sox would open the postseason in Chicago.
The Anaheim Angels were setting the pace in the AL West, led by rightfielder Vlad Guerrro Sr. With a .317 batting average, 32 homers, 108 RBIs and a rocket arm in the outfield, Vladdy Sr. finished third in the MVP results for his work in keeping an otherwise pedestrian offense in the middle of the league.
The rotation was deep. Bartolo Colon won 21 games and took home the Cy Young Award. John Lackey, Paul Byrd, and Jarrod Washburn were all steady starters with ERAs in the 3s. Francisco Rodriguez saved 45 games.
Anaheim held a five-game lead over the Texas Rangers at the All-Star break. The Rangers faded, but the Oakland A’s, led by good pitching and a nice year from third baseman Eric Chavez, got into the race and it was hot through September. Not until the final week, when the Angels nudged out to a four-game lead and then clinched, were they finally home free.
The St. Louis Cardinals were the gold standard in the National League throughout the season. Coming off their pennant run in 2004, the Cardinals got an MVP year from Albert Pujols, who dazzled with a .330 batting average, 41 homers and 117 ribbies. Pujols lifted the Cardinal offense to third-best in the National League.
Chris Carpenter won the Cy Young Award with 21 wins and a 2.83 ERA. With Mark Mulder and Jeff Suppan each winning 16 games, and Jason Marquis and Matt Morris combining for 27 more victories, St. Louis had a deep rotation, a terrific closer in Jason Isringhausen, and they led the NL in composite ERA.
The Cardinals were also never challenged in the NL Central. They had an 11 ½ game lead by the All-Star break and coasted back into the postseason.
In the NL East, the Atlanta Braves also won a division reasonably comfortably, but it took the Braves a little longer to pull away. Atlanta trailed the Washington Nationals, in their first year of existence after relocating from Montreal, by two games at the All-Star break. The Nationals would fade, and Atlanta was being led by a huge year from centerfielder Andruw Jones. With 51 homers and 128 RBIs, Jones finished second to Pujols in the MVP vote. Rafael Furcal was a versatile shortstop.
Atlanta pulled out to a seven-game lead by early September and continued an astonishing string of division titles that went back to 1991.
Both divisions, the Central and the East, still had a good runner-up, and those teams—the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies would stage a big-time battle down the stretch for the wild-card berth.
Houston didn’t have much in the way of offense—even with third baseman Morgan Ensberg finishing top-5 in the NL MVP vote, the Astros were only 11th in the league in runs scored. But could Houston pitch. Roy Oswalt was a 20-game winner. Roger Clemens put up a buck-87 ERA and came in third in the Cy Young vote. Andy Pettitte won 17 games with a 2.39 ERA. And Brad Lidge was at the end of games, nailing down 42 saves with a 2.29 ERA.
Philadelphia was the exact opposite. Phillie pitching struggled, but with Chase Utley coming into his own as one of the game’s top second baseman, and Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu each driving in over 100 runs, the Phils had the second-best offense in the league.
Neither team looked particularly impressive for the first half but were each within five games in the packed wild-card race at the All-Star break. By the early part of September, both teams, along with the Marlins and Cy Young runner-up Dontrelle Willis, were starting to get some separation. Florida faded, and coming into the final weekend, Houston had a two-game lead over Philadelphia.
It got interesting quickly on Friday night, when the Astros lost and Phillies won, narrowing the margin to a single game. Both teams won on Saturday. Philadelphia kept the pressure going on Sunday with another win. Houston was able to avoid a one-game playoff and clinch the wild-card with a 6-4 win over the Chicago Cubs.
The playoff field was rounded out by an NL West shrouded in mediocrity. The San Diego Padres got a good year from Jake Peavy at the top of the rotation and had an excellent bullpen with Scott Linebrink in setup and the great Trevor Hoffman closing. That was all it took to get to 82-80. And that was all it took to not only win the division but have a comfortable six-game lead in early September and close it out with a minimum of stress.
To no one’s surprise, St. Louis promptly dispatched San Diego in the Division Series, sweeping the three games by a combined score of 21-11. After Chicago’s September slump, no one was quite sure what to expect from the White Sox. But they dropped a 14-2 shellacking on Boston in Game 1, then won a pair of close games to finish off a sweep of their own.
For the first three games, the Houston-Atlanta series was pedestrian. The Astros won two of those games and none were competitive. Game 4 made up for it. An 18-inning classic ended with Houston pulling out a 7-6 win and advancing to the NLCS.
The best Division Series battle came between the Yankees and Angels. When New York took Game 1 on the road, they had control. But Anaheim took Game 2, and then hammered Randy Johnson back in the Bronx in Game 3. The Yankees answered with a tight win in Game 4 and the series went back west for a decisive fifth game. An outfield mishap by New York keyed a big third inning for Anaheim, and the Angels were able to grind out a 5-3 win.
Anaheim rode that momentum to a 3-2 win in Chicago to start the ALCS. But then the White Sox pitching rotation took over. Four straight complete game wins, with the Angels scoring just nine runs combined in those four games. The World Series would be coming to the South Side of Chicago.
Houston and St. Louis were meeting in the NLCS for the second straight year. The heavily favored Cardinals took Game 1. But Astro pitching got locked in, winning the next three games by a combined score of 10-5, and then taking a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning of Game 5.
The fans in Houston were rocking, anticipating what was then their first World Series appearance. Then, Pujols stunned the crowd with a massive three-run blast off Lidge. The 5-4 shocker sent the series back to St. Louis.
Everything seemed ripe for the Cardinals to ride the momentum in front of their home fans. But the cliché in baseball says that momentum is really just the next day’s starting pitcher. For Houston, that pitcher was Oswalt. And his stuff was filthy, as he turned in a dominating effort and beat St. Louis 5-1. The Astros had put their fan base through the wringer. But they were going to the Fall Classic.
The 2005 World Series was a strange one. All of the games individually were good—great even. But the White Sox won all of them. They got a walkoff home run to take Game 2. They went 14 innings to secure Game 3. And a 1-0 win in Game 4 meant that the 88-year wait was finally over. The Chicago White Sox were finally champions of baseball again.