There are few things in life that Cubs and White Sox fans can agree on:
Harry Caray, Bill Veeck, the Bulls, the Bears and the beauty of a cold beer on a hot summer day.
One thing they will never agree on is the man who goes by the calling card "A.J."
So it was fitting that on a cold and blustery day at Wrigley Field, Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski would be the one to steal the show with a seventh-inning grand slam, lifting the White Sox to a 10-6 win over the Cubs.
"They love me here, I don't know," Pierzynski said. "I just said it's a fun series. It's what you play for. Coming to Chicago, all the eyes are on one game and don't think about anything else. It's what you live for."
The Sox avoided a sweep by scoring seven runs with two outs in the seventh inning, including Pierzynski's game-breaking slam off ex-Sox lefty Neal Cotts. Rookie Nick Masset got the victory in his first major-league start.
"It's disappointing," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Any time you win two out of three you've got to be pleased. When you win the first two, you get a little hoggish and want to win all three."
Seven of the Sox's runs were charged to Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano, who walked four and gave up six hits while falling to 4-4 with a 5.61 earned-run average. Masset allowed two runs on three hits over 5 2/3 innings, keeping the Cubs at bay before the Sox hitters finally got their groove back. It was the first time this season the Sox have scored in double digits.
"We started to swing the bats better," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We got key hits, we got clutch hitting, we made Zambrano start working."
The Sox led 3-2 in the seventh when Zambrano fell apart after retiring the first two men he faced. After hitting Juan Uribe with a pitch, Zambrano walked pinch-hitter Jim Thome, who was playing in his first game back from the disabled list.
A bloop single by Darin Erstad brought home the first run, and Zambrano walked Tadahito Iguchi to load the bases. Piniella had seen enough from Zambrano at that point and called on Cotts to face Pierzynski, his former teammate.
Pierzynski launched an 0-1 pitch into the right-field bleachers as Sox fans taunted Cubs fans and breathed a sigh of relief.
"I've seen Neal face so many lefties and make them look so bad," Pierzynski said. "Neal is tough on lefties and righties. It didn't matter who it was. It was more nerve-wracking, actually, because I have so much respect for him and been through a few wars with him. It's a tough situation."
Cotts continued to implode, and a two-run single by Rob Mackowiak made it 10-2, completing the seven-run inning.
"It's hard to score seven runs with two outs and nobody on," Piniella said. "Last week in Philadelphia we had a similar situation, and we held 'em to six that day."
Cotts had no answer for his recent struggles.
"Pitch better," he said. "That would be the production you want. This past week hasn't been successful, personally. I've just got to go out there and do a better job."
Right-hander David Aardsma, who was dealt for Cotts over the winter, was his mirror image on the mound, making it a trade that apparently has hurt both teams.
Aardsma served up a three-run home run to Aramis Ramirez in the eighth, and an RBI double by Jacque Jones made it 10-6.
The game was halted for 42 minutes when a deluge hit in the top of the ninth. But it only delayed the inevitable.
By the time play resumed, only a few thousand Sox fans were left to watch Bobby Jenks close it out with a typical City Series finish: Alfonso Soriano grounded to Iguchi, who was in no position to make the throw, so he flipped to Uribe, who threw to Paul Konerko at first for the final out.
All in all, just another day in the life of the legend called A.J., the man Cubs fans love to hate.
"I'm used to it more than anyone else," Pierzynski said. "It's nothing new to me. People boo me all the time. As Ozzie says, they boo me in my own back yard. The more people boo, the more they relax. If they cheered for me, I wouldn't know what to do."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times