HOUSTON (AP) – Ten, 11, 12, 13 innings. No one could break through.

Not the White Sox, who waited 46 years to get back to the World Series. Not the Astros, who’ve never been here before.

Finally, in the 14th inning, Geoff Blum won the longest game in World Series history with a tiebreaking, two-out solo homer, and Chicago beat Houston 7-5 Wednesday morning to move within a win of a Series sweep and its first title since 1917.

Long after Chicago overcame a 4-0 deficit with five runs in the fifth inning against Roy Oswalt and Jason Lane hit a tying double for Houston in the eighth off Dustin Hermanson, Blum batted for the first time in a World Series with two outs in the 14th and faced Ezequiel Astacio, Houston’s seventh pitcher.

With nearly all the seats still full in Minute Maid Park, Blum sent a 2-0 pitch from Astacio down the right-field line, and the ball sailed over the wall. As the former Astro circled the bases, Houston manager Phil Garner slammed a stool in the dugout.

The White Sox picked up Blum from San Diego on July 31, right before the trading deadline. A starter with Houston in 2002-03, he’s been mostly a backup since then and entered the game in the 13th as part of a double-switch.

Astacio allowed Chicago to load the bases on two singles and a walk, then forced in a run by walking Chris Widger on a 3-2 pitch.

Houston put runners at the corners in the bottom half when Orlando Palmeiro walked with one out and Brad Ausmus reached when shortstop Juan Uribe misplayed his two-out grounder for an error.

Mark Buehrle, who pitched seven innings in Game 2 on Sunday night, came in, Chicago’s ninth pitcher and the 17th of the game, both Series records.

Adam Everett then popped to shortstop for the final out at 1:20 a.m. local time. At 5 hours, 41 minutes, it was the longest game by time in Series history. It matched the longest by innings, a Babe Ruth complete game for the Boston Red Sox against Brooklyn in 1914.

Houston, which got only one hit after the fourth inning and stranded 15 runners, left the potential winning run at third base in the ninth and at second base in the 10th and 11th. The Astros escaped a two-on, two-outs jam in the 11th when Chad Qualls retired pinch-hitter Timo Perez on a groundout and eliminated possible trouble in the 13th when Scott Podsednik bunted into a double play with no outs. Paul Konerko grounded into a double play just before Blum’s homer.

Freddy Garcia tries to complete the sweep for Chicago on Wednesday night, opposed by Brandon Backe. No team has ever overcome a 3-0 World Series deficit, and only one major league team has done it in any round of the postseason – the Boston Red Sox in last year’s AL championship series against the New York Yankees.

In the first World Series game played in the state of Texas, a sellout crowd of 42,848 filled Minute Maid Park with plenty of noise – but less than the Astros had hoped for. Against the wishes of the home team, Major League Baseball ordered the retractable roof open for the game because the skies were cloudless and the temperature a comfortable 61 degrees at game time. Houston wanted the roof closed, to increase the decibels.

Oswalt, 3-0 in the postseason coming in, couldn’t hold the 4-0 lead, allowing five runs in a 46-pitch fifth inning – the most pitches he’s thrown in an inning in his career, according to STATS Inc. He gave up five runs, eight hits and five walks in six-plus innings, the most runs he’s allowed at home since the season opener against St. Louis on April 5.

After giving up three runs in the first four innings, Jon Garland pitched shutout ball for the next four. But for the second straight game, Chicago’s bullpen faltered.

Cliff Politte walked Morgan Ensberg with two outs in the eighth, and left-hander Neal Cotts came in and walked Mike Lamb.

Instead of bringing in Bobby Jenks to face Lane, overwhelmed by the closer as he struck out in the ninth inning of Saturday’s opener, Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen summoned Hermanson, his former closer, for his first appearance of the postseason.

Lane drove a 1-2 pitch over the first-base bag for a tying double that put the potential go-ahead run on third. Hermanson then got Ausmus to take a called third strike.

Houston had a chance to win it in the ninth when Chris Burke walked with one out against Orlando Hernandez, took third as El Duque threw away a pickoff attempt for an error and stole third on the next pitch. But Hernandez struck out Willy Taveras, intentionally walked Lance Berkman, then struck out Ensberg to send the game into extra innings.

Luis Vizcaino, in his first appearance since the regular-season finale on Oct. 2, came in when Hernandez appeared to get hurt while walking Palmeiro, a pinch hitter, leading off the 10th. After a two-out walk – Houston’s fifth in two innings, Burke hit an inning-ending comebacker. Hernandez left becasue of tightness in his neck.

Chicago had two on with two outs in the 11th after Podsednik’s leadoff single and stolen base, but pinch-hitter Timo Perez grounded out, and Houston had two on with two outs in the bottom half when Jenks, who came in to start the inning, retired Palmeiro on a grounder.

Joe Crede led off the fifth with his fourth postseason home run, a drive to right. Singles by Uribe, Podsednik and Tadahito Iguchi produced another run, and Jermaine Dye reached down for a low and outside 3-2 pitch, lofting it into short center for an RBI single that cut Houston’s lead to 4-3.

A.J. Pierzynski, 5-for-8 against Oswalt in his career coming in, came up with two outs and two on, and he drove the ball to deep right-center, where it rolled up Tal’s Hill, the 10-degree slope built as an homage to Cincinnati’s old Crosley Field.

Aaron Rowand walked and Crede – having the chance to become the first player to homer twice in a Series inning – was plunked in the ribs by a pitch. By then, plate umpire Jerry Layne had heard enough complaining from the dugouts by Chicago’s Carl Everett and Garner, and he told both benches to knock off the whining. Uribe followed with an inning-ending flyout.

Garland retired 10 straight after Lane’s homer leading off the fourth, then walked Ausmus leading off the seventh, then escaped trouble in the seventh when pinch-hitter Jeff Bagwell popped with one out and a runner on second, and Craig Biggo took a called third strike.

Right from the start, the Astros had the joint jumping in their first home World Series game since the franchise joined the National League in 1962. Some fans wore the bright horizontally striped jerseys that the Astros used from 1975-86.

Biggio doubled leading off the bottom of the first and scored on a single by Berkman, his sixth RBI of the Series. Houston made it 3-0 with two unearned runs in the third after Adam Everett was caught in a rundown when Chicago called for a pitchout on his steal attempt, and Uribe’s throw hit Everett for an error that allowed the runner to get back to first. Biggio had an RBI single, advanced on Berkman’s two-out single and scored on Ensberg’s single – it was the first time in the postseason that the White Sox allowed four hits in an inning.

Lane hit a long home run to left-center in the fourth, and fireworks went off beyond the train tracks high above the field. But when the smoke cleared, the White Sox came back.

Notes: Chicago is trying to match the 1999 New York Yankees as the only teams to go through the postseason with just one loss since the extra round of playoffs was added in 1995. … Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Houston’s Roger Clemens, who left Saturday’s opener after two innings because of a left hamstring injury, remains “penciled in” to start Game 5 Thursday. … There was a double play in each of the first four half innings. … Osawlt’s five walks matched his career high.

AP-ES-10-26-05 0229EDT


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