CHICAGO (AP) – Brad Lidge stood near third base, staring toward the outfield wall. The Houston Astros closer was stunned at what was happening again.

It was the second straight appearance in which Lidge gave up a ninth-inning homer, and this one put the Astros in a deep hole in the World Series.

Scott Podsednik homered off Lidge with one out in the ninth inning Sunday night, giving the Chicago White Sox a 7-6 victory and a 2-0 lead.

Lidge had last pitched in Game 5 of the NL championship series last Monday. With the Astros poised to clinch their first World Series berth at home, Albert Pujols hit a mammoth three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning as the St. Louis Cardinals rallied for a 5-4 victory that extended the series.

The Astros won the NLCS clincher in St. Louis 5-1 two days after that, but manager Phil Garner decided against using Lidge late in that game to give the hard-throwing closer a chance then to get the sour taste out of his mouth.

Instead, Garner waited until Game 2 of the World Series to send him back to the mound – and now the taste is much more bitter.

After waiting 44 seasons to play in their first World Series, the Astros lost the first two games. Game 3 is Tuesday night in Houston.

“Well, we’re not in a good spot. We had a chance to win this game,” Garner said. “We have to go home and regroup. We’ll make a series of this.”

After the Astros scored twice in the ninth to tie the game, Garner brought in the rested Lidge, who likely would have gone more than one inning had the game gone to extra innings.

Juan Uribe, who had already doubled twice, led off the ninth with a fly to center – a ball that forced Lidge to turn his head and look, even though it was well short of the wall.

But there was no question about Podsednik’s 408-foot shot into the seats in right-center field.

Lidge was almost automatic during the regular season, when he saved 42 games. The hard-throwing right-hander then saved three straight games before Pujols’ homer.

Still, he wasn’t the only Astros reliever who had trouble Sunday night.

After Andy Pettitte allowed two runs over six innings on a cold, rainy night – and left with a 4-2 lead – the White Sox went ahead right away against the bullpen.

Dan Wheeler gave up a double and walked a batter before hitting Jermaine Dye with a full-count pitch to load the bases with two outs in the seventh. Chad Qualls then took over, and the first pitch he threw was hit by Paul Konerko for a grand slam.

Qualls had pitched 8 1-3 scoreless innings over his last seven appearances, since giving up two runs in Game 2 of the NL division series against Atlanta. Wheeler had made five straight postseason appearances without allowing a run.

Rating drops for Series opener

Television viewership for the World Series opener dropped substantially.

The 5-3 victory by the Chicago White Sox over the Houston Astros on Saturday night on Fox got a 9.5 fast national rating and 17 share, Nielsen Media Research said Sunday.

That rating declined 31 percent from Boston’s victory over St. Louis in the 2004 opener, which got a 13.7/25.

Still, Fox got its highest Saturday night rating in nine months since last season’s NFL playoffs.


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