A.J. gets 'lucky,' wins again with power ball
In Sunday's 4-2 victory over the Angels before 30,202 at U.S. Cellular Field, Pierzynski could add "game-winning power hitter" to his resume.
Pierzynski's pinch-hit blast off of Jason Isringhausen (3-2) in the seventh inning scored pinch-runner Jordan Danks and gave the White Sox (59-48) their needed victory margin to improve to 12-2 over the last 14 games played on the South Side.
As for that power-hitter designation, a smiling Pierzynski wasn't buying it.
"We were laughing and joking around about it," said Pierzynski, who also has 61 RBIs. "The guys that are supposed to do that, [Paul] Konerko and Dunner [Adam Dunn], they were making fun of me and calling me a home run hitter.
"I'm not supposed to be doing this, so just ride it out as long as you can, enjoy it and have fun with it. I'm just getting lucky. That's why it's funny. It's not like I'm trying to hit home runs. I'm trying to put the barrel on the ball and I'm lucky they're going out."
Pierzynski didn't start Sunday's day game after a long night game Saturday. But when Dayan Viciedo singled to open the frame, Robin Ventura picked his newly found left-handed slugger to hit for Tyler Flowers.
The results unfolded exactly as the White Sox manager envisioned, with Pierzynski tying the franchise record for consecutive games with a home run at five, reached six times previously and last done by Konerko from June 17-21, 2011.
"Of course, of course. Just waiting for the right time to unleash him," said Ventura with a laugh about knowing Pierzynski would go deep for the White Sox first pinch-hit homer this season. "He's as strong as anybody, so when he hits it, it's going to go."
"If you watch him take batting practice, he can take every pitch out if he wanted to. It's there," said Konerko. "He's always been a good hitter, and it doesn't surprise me that he's lining up as many as he is right now. They're coming at big times like today."
This contest started as a pitchers' battle between Francisco Liriano and Dan Haren, until Liriano exited after five innings with a right quad contusion.
Liriano was struck by Maicer Izturis' hard-hit grounder to open the fifth, and Izturis eventually came around to score on Mike Trout's sacrifice fly. The left-hander, who fanned four and threw just 72 pitches, was taken out for precautionary measures, with the injured area cramping and tightening up, but he's not expected to miss his next start.
"Everything was working pretty good today," said Liriano, who walked one and yielded four hits. "I was locating my slider pretty good and my fastball, too."
Kevin Youkilis' leadoff homer in the sixth, his third in two games and fifth at home since joining the White Sox, tied the contest at 1. But the Angels (58-51) regained the lead in the seventh on Torii Hunter's run-scoring single against Nate Jones (5-0).
Los Angeles had a chance to blow the game open against Jones in the sixth, with the bases loaded and one out. But Izturis grounded into an inning-ending double play.
When Pierzynski came to the plate in the seventh, it looked as if it could be his only chance to extend the homer streak streak. Alexei Ramirez's run-scoring triple in the eighth actually gave Pierzynski at-bats in back-to-back innings, though he struck out against Hisanori Takahashi in the eighth.
Damage already had been done through Pierzynski's previous connection on Isringhausen's 2-0 offering.
"He hit it OK. He got it up there and that ball carries out there to right-center," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "Coming off the bench, he's looking for one zone and one pitch and it got to a 2-0 count and he didn't miss it."
"For us, it's a good series win and you just go from there," Ventura said. "You don't want to let down playing anybody else. You want to keep that intensity no matter who you're playing."
Brett Myers, who has not allowed an earned run in eight White Sox appearances, and Addison Reed (19th save) closed out the South Siders' fourth straight series win since starting the second half at 3-7. When pinch-hitter Kendrys Morales flied out deep to center to end things as the game's tying run, the White Sox appeared to have regained their 2 1/2-game lead on the Tigers in the American League Central.
Not so fast on that prediction. As the White Sox were taking in another hard-fought victory, they watched Detroit rally for five runs in the bottom of the 10th off of Cleveland closer Chris Perez and claim a 10-8 victory on Miguel Cabrera's walk-off homer.
In the one-day-at-a-time, focus-on-your-own-work approach preached by Ventura, the White Sox didn't seem too concerned with the Tigers' amazing comeback. Not after they took care of business at U.S. Cellular.
"There's nothing we can do to control what Cleveland or Detroit do," Pierzynski said. "Detroit won the game so give them credit and tomorrow's a new day to start over."
"We've had a lot of games in the past couple months where we've swung the bats well, scored a lot of runs," Konerko said. "But you like to see yourself win those close ones, especially against real good ball clubs like [the Angels]."