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Fueled by Pierzynski's bat, Sox rally
Whether it's a springboard for greater things ahead or just another two-game winning streak, A.J. Pierzynski provided pause for some appreciation.
Despite his hitting problems, which are part of the White Sox's lingering problem, Pierzynski has kept the Sox's pitching staff competitive with his pitch selection and knowledge of opposing hitters.
Sunday, Pierzynski's hitting finally caught up in an impressive manner.
Pierzynski revived his flare for the dramatic by delivering his first pinch hit since 2004—a two-run, game-tying home run off formidable Angels setup man Scot Shields in the eighth inning.
If Pierzynski said he was merely taking off his helmet instead of sarcastically showing his appreciation to a herd of booing fans as he reached the dugout, there was no way he could mask his enthusiasm two innings later—slapping his hands and pumping his fist following his two-out, RBI single off closer Francisco Rodriguez that gave the Sox a 4-3 victory in 10 innings.
This was one of the most resourceful and timely wins in the Sox's young season and they needed every contribution from Pierzynski, who has played in all 28 games this season.
"To have a game like that, hopefully this team can carry on for a little while," manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Angels starter Bartolo Colon shut down the Sox's offense for seven innings before giving up two hits in the eighth and leaving with a strain in his right triceps.
"The way we're swinging the bat, the way we've been playing lately, those types of wins I think help any ballclub to get the confidence back and the belief, the enthusiasm, all the nice things," Guillen said.
The Sox have plenty to relish before starting a three-game series Tuesday in Minnesota without having to face ace Johan Santana or batting champion Joe Mauer, who is on the disabled list.
Pierzynski praised the Angels fans who continue to boo him in their lingering anger over his running out a contested dropped third strike that enabled the Sox to win Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series.
His performance also might have temporarily quelled the discontentment of Sox followers over their underachieving offense.
For the second consecutive game, there were signs, albeit late, that the offense is percolating. Joe Crede started the eighth-inning rally with a double for only his fourth extra-base hit of the season, and Alex Cintron followed with a single.
The Sox's winning rally started when rookie Ryan Sweeney pulled a Rodriguez curve down the right-field line for a double.
"I was just going up there thinking the other way, thinking he was going to throw me an outside fastball, and he gave me a first-pitch curveball," Sweeney said. "He missed away with the outside fastball, so I was expecting another curveball, and I kind of sat on it."
Pierzynski, hitting .227, has shouldered his share of blame for the Sox's .222 team batting average and was delighted over getting his first hit in 14 pinch-hit at-bats with the Sox.
"It makes you happy when you hit a home run and the crowd is booing the [heck] out of you," Pierzynski said. "It gets you a little excited. You want to do something to remember, I guess."
The Sox's relievers, meanwhile, appreciate Pierzynski's knowledge behind the plate. David Aardsma kept the game tied in the bottom of the eighth by striking out Mike Napoli and Reggie Willits on split-finger fastballs.
"I think you can't argue with the results," Aardsma said. "[Pierzynski's] calling an unbelievable game. Every game we're in it, and the catcher is a big part of it. He's done a wonderful job of calling the game, watching the hitters and seeing matchups."
Closer Bobby Jenks wouldn't address his velocity after the game. But after striking out Erick Aybar and Willits on curves, Jenks fooled Chone Figgins on another breaking pitch for an 0-2 count with the potential tying and winning runs on base.
But instead of snapping off another breaking pitch, Jenks threw a 96-m.p.h. fastball past Figgins to end the game.
"Even if A.J. doesn't put it down (the sign for a fastball), I might have shaken to something else," Jenks said. "But we're on the same page. And when he put the sign down, I said in my head that was a great idea to go with the fastball because I struck out the other two guys on a curve."