CHICAGO -- So the Astros are down 2-0, two bristles from a sweep, but soon start fresh at home in Houston. This is encouraging, the theory goes, not just because Minute Maid Park will soon pulse louder than 50 Cent's Escalade -- but also because the 'Stros are returning to National League rules, fertile soil from which two or three wins can grow.
But as the World Series resumes Tuesday, while many people see the disappearance of the designated hitter to be a disadvantage for Chicago and a gaping door for Houston and its Julia Child of managers, Phil Garner, a closer look suggests that this might be a little less substance than story line.
First, a look at the differences. The most stark, other than the gruesome sight of Freddy Garcia with a bat, will almost certainly be the benching of regular White Sox DH Carl Everett. Manager Ozzie Guillen will not only have to use Everett off the bench, but perhaps remember that he has a bench to begin with. (More on that later.)
Meanwhile, Garner, known for improvising his way to a pennant with a dash of Bruntlett and a pinch of Palmeiro, can use his full spice rack again. His moving Chris Burke, Mike Lamb, Lance Berkman and Jose Vizcaino around the diamond for nine innings will leave Astros scoresheets looking like Jackson Pollack paintings again. As Houston general manager Tim Purpura put it, "I kind of kidded with Phil that he didn't even have to show up here [in Chicago], because his creativity comes to fruition in National League games. That's what we'll have going for us."
For all the hubbub over the rules switch, though, it's hard to say that it will play a major factor, because it hasn't in World Series past.
In general, playing by NL rules does not appear to have hurt AL teams. In the 18 full World Series since rules began being determined by the home park, AL teams have a .412 winning percentage when playing without a DH -- not good, of course, but those were also by definition away games, which present their own disadvantages because of park characteristics, hotel-pillow firmness, etc. Visiting teams in all major league games have about a .462 winning percentage, so laying everything at the feet of the DH is probably foolish.
This year, the general impression is that Chicago will be hampered by National League rules. The White Sox have of course played under such conditions already -- in interleague play, nine times. And they played well: In three games apiece in Wrigley Field, Colorado and San Diego, the Sox went 7-2, pummeling their opposition by a total score of 54-24. The only two losses were by one run.
In those games, the odd man out consistently was Everett, the team's second-highest RBI man this season with 87, who was squeezed out by the regular outfield of Scott Podsednik, Aaron Rowand and Jermaine Dye. Guillen has decided to follow precedent and sit Everett in Houston, a move he considers so obvious he felt no need to inform his veteran: "He should know. I hope he's smart enough for that."
His resignated hitter apparently is. "He doesn't have to [tell me]," Everett said while packing his bags after Game 2. "Whatever the lineup is, is what it is. However the situation comes up, I'll be ready."
Because of his suspect glove, Everett will probably be used only as the first pinch hitter for a pitcher. Guillen plans to save outfielder Timo Perez and infielders Pablo Ozuna and Geoff Blum for double switches that require defensive changes.
The Sox bench could be forgiven for some rigor mortis. Since Game 1 of the ALDS against the White Sox, Guillen has made just two substitutions -- Ozuna as a pinch runner, twice.
"Me and Blum and Tino and those guys, we joke a lot about it -- we say, 'He can't hide from us anymore,' " reserve Willie Harris said with a smile. "Not only be there, but actually feel like you contributed to the team. You don't feel left out, you just feel, 'Man, I wanna play so I can do something.' "
Using all his players is Garner's trademark, something he and his players are looking forward to affixing all over the next (they expect) three games. Burke, who is often moved among left field, second base and occasionally center field, barely knows what position he'll be playing from one inning to the next. Berkman, Lamb, Vizcaino and infielder Eric Bruntlett also regularly play multiple positions.
"The style of play will be to our advantage," Burke said. "They'll have to make the adjustments to us, as opposed to vice versa these two games."
Although Guillen has toned it down markedly in the postseason, he actually mixed things up just as much as Garner did in the regular season -- their respective machinations were probably more dictated by the rules the two managers played under than people realize. According to STATS LLC's Jim Henzler and Don Zminda, Garner used 251 pinch hitters to Guillen's 100. But was the lack of the DH more responsible for those raw totals? Garner's 251 placed just ninth among NL managers, while Guillen's 100 was sixth in the AL.
In the same manner, Guillen was actually more prone to using different starting lineups (eighth in his league to Garner's 12th) and making mid-pitching changes (second to Garner's 12th), while the two were effectively even in using pinch runners and defensive substitutions. So it might be shortsighted to assume that Guillen, who played and coached in the National League, will somehow be hamstrung, either by bench or brains, by the lack of the DH. If anything, it might evidence a side of him that the American League disguises.
Of course, Guillen loves to downplay whatever responsibility he might have as his team continues its remarkable run. Regaling a gaggle of reporters before Game 2, Guillen was interrupted by a frisky Jack McDowell, who snapped at him from beyond the crowd, "Hey Oz, you make a lineup out yet? Don't you gotta make out a lineup?"
Guillen didn't hesitate.
"I made it out last night," he shot back. "Drunk."
Alan Schwarz is the senior writer at Baseball America and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. His book, "The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics," is published by St. Martin's Press and can be ordered on Alan's Web site.