All right Sox fans, we made it. Things looked bleak last week but the Sox won three in-a-row to get back in the postseason for the first time since the magical season of 2005. How far can the Sox go this time? Things get started today against the surprising Tampa Bay Rays. Follow along with me right here and send in your comments as I'll be blogging live all game long.
1:13 p.m. - Ernie Johnson just said that the White Sox won the World Series in 2004. I'm sure Boston would be interested to hear that. Maybe EJ's just missing Kenny and Charles, the studio crew is a little awkward so far.
1:18 p.m. - And I thought TBS was scuffling. There's no sound on Comcast Sports Net's pregame coverage with Pat Boyle and Bill Melton.
1:32 p.m. - This Bon Jovi song is quickly heading into "This Is Our Country" territory.
1:38 p.m. - My pick to click today - Paul Konerko.
1:41 p.m. - Sox quickly go down in order in the top of the first. James Shields is attacking the zone early, let's hope Javy Vazquez takes his queue.
1:48 p.m. - He gone! Vazquez strikes out Carlos Pena to retire the Rays in order in the bottom of the first. I wonder if Vazquez and A.J. Pierzynski had a nice sit-down chat after last week's on-field shouting match.
1:55 p.m. - After going 3-0, Ken Griffey Jr. strikes out on a pitch in the dirt. Sox go out in order again in the second.
1:59 p.m. - First pitch of the bottom of the 2nd to Evan Longoria is crushed into the left-center seats. Your move Alexei. 1-0 RAYS.
2:08 p.m. - Vazquez strikes out Gabe Gross - one of 3 K's in the inning - to overcome Dioner Navarro's bloop double that dropped in front of Dewayne Wise in left. But the damage is done, through two innings - 1-0 RAYS.
2:18 p.m. - You can put it on the board, YES! Wise belts a 2-2 frozen rope into the right-field stands for a three-run shot. It looked like the Sox were going to blow another scoring opportunity with runners on base after Ramirez and Pierzynski singled and were bunted over by Juan Uribe. Orlando Cabrera meekly popped out to second but Wise comes through huge. He has really struggled in the last two weeks but makes Ozzie look good for sticking with him. Jermaine Dye doubles to the center-field wall but Jim Thome grounds out to second to end it. But a crooked number goes up on that board, SOX LEAD 3-1.
2:28 p.m. - A single by Jason Bartlett and a Akinori Iwamura triple over the head of Griffey makes it a 3-2 game. With one out, Willie Aybar hits a sac fly to left. Wise makes a nice throw home but Iwamura gets in safely. Unbelievable! Longoria goes deep again on the first pitch. All right fine, you're the Rookie of the Year, just stop hitting home runs. Carl Crawford flies out to right to end the third. How quickly things have changed. RAYS LEAD 4-3.
2:39 p.m. - Commenter Dave B. and I are probably just a few of the thousands of White Sox fans wondering what to do with Vazquez. Once again, if it's a big game don't call on Javy.
2:44 p.m. - Sox are retired in order in the top of the 4th. Harold Reynolds points out that the Sox are taking a lot of pitches. So I guess, we'll take a little solace in that. RAYS LEAD 4-3.
2:55 p.m. - After starting out 3-0 to Cliff Floyd and nearly getting taken deep, Vazquez strikes him out and then gets Navarro to pop out. Gross walks and steals 2nd as Vazquez doesn't keep his eye on him - What's new Sox fans? - but gets Bartlett to pop out. 70 pitches so far for Vazquez in just four innings. RAYS LEAD 4-3.
3:03 p.m. - Pierzynski leads things off with another single. But after Uribe flies out, A.J. gets nailed at second trying to steal? Or was it a missed hit-and-run with Cabrera? Cabrera flies out to right to end the inning. Sox offense has stalled. 73 pitches for James Shields through five. RAYS LEAD 4-3.
3:11 p.m. - After Aybar singles to left - the second hit of the inning - Longoria comes up with runners on first and second. Hold your breath, Sox fans.
3:16 p.m. - Longoria singles just passed Cabrera into left, Upton scores. Ozzie comes to get Vazquez, who once again laid an egg on the mound when it mattered most. Clayton Richard coming in with one out in the fifth. RAYS LEAD 5-3.
3:20 p.m. - Crawford singles up the middle off Richard, Aybar scores. Things are starting to get away from the Pale Hose. RAYS LEAD 6-3.
3:26 p.m. - Richard comes back to strike out Floyd and Navarro to mercifully end the fifth. Don Orsillo and Reynolds go on and on about how fun Tropicana Field is with the catwalks hovering above. "Like when you're a kid," Reynolds says. How about this, it's no Metrodome but this place is still a blemish on the face of baseball. RAYS LEAD 6-3.
3:33 p.m. - Sox look bad in the top of the sixth. Wise and Thome fail to hit it past the pitcher. 85 pitches for Shields now through six. Sox offense far from clicking. RAYS LEAD 6-3.
3:40 p.m. - Wow, Richard has been looking sharp. 5 K's in 1 2/3 innings after striking out the side in the sixth. Maybe Hawk was right about starting Richard instead of Vazquez. Maybe that will be put the test if the Sox can rally and make it into the ALCS. RAYS LEAD 6-3.
3:50 p.m. - After Konerko singles and "Whiffey" strikes out, Ramirez draws a walk. Is Shields on the ropes? Let's hope A.J. makes him pay.
3:52 p.m. - A.J. turns into one and gets hit on the calf, loading the bases. That'll do it for Shields as Grant Balfour comes out of the pen. With one out, Uribe will step up. I'm hoping he's using Alexei's bat.
3:59 p.m. - Uribe strikes out and after dropping some f-bombs on one another in an odd exchange, Balfour strikes out Cabrera and yells at him afterward. Got to say, bad call by the home plate up on strike 2. Cabrera did not go around. Sox blow a golden opportunity and this series just got a lot more interesting. Going into the bottom of the 7th, RAYS LEAD 6-3.
4:08 p.m. - Richard gets out of a bit of a jam with Longoria at second after a walk and a botched pick off. I'm thinking Richard for sure will replace Vazquez if Sox make it to LCS. Going into the 8th, RAYS LEAD 6-3.
4:16 p.m. - Brian Anderson comes in for Wise and promptly strikes out. J.P. Howell then fans Dye and gets Thome to ground out. Sox running out of outs. Heading into the bottom of the 8th, RAYS LEAD 6-3.
4:19 p.m. - You have to wonder if Cabrera's dust-kicking antics in the 7th were a result of a previous encounter with Balfour or just of of the Sox's vets trying to intimidate the young Rays. Either way, Balfour and the Rays won that round.
4:28 p.m. - Surprisingly Richard is still in. He gets the first two outs but then runs into trouble. Consecutive singles followed by a walk to Iwamura has Ozzie calling for the pen with the bases now loaded for Upton. Nice work by Richard overall to save the pen.
4:33 p.m. - Octavio Dotel strikes out Upton looking to end the threat. Let's see if Konerko, Griffey and Ramirez can make it interesting in the ninth. RAYS LEAD 6-3.
4:49 p.m. - After a lenghty at-bat, my pick-to-click Paul Konerko crushes one just inside the left-field foul poul for a solo shot to make it 6-4 and give the Sox some hope. But Griffey pops out, Dan Wheeler fans Ramirez and Pierzynski flies out to end the ball game. It will be interesting to see if today's bullpen work by both teams comes into play tomorrow. The Rays used their best; Balfour, Howell and Wheeler to close it out while Richard pitched 3 1/3 and Dotel faced just one batter. Longoria (3-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB) is easily the player of the game. It'll be Scott Kazmir vs. my hero Mark Buehrle tomorrow at 5 p.m. Let's get them tomorrow White Sox! RAYS WIN 6-4.