CHICAGO – White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has been called many things, not all kind, during his 15-year big league career.
Maybe it’s time to give him another moniker – home-run hitter.
Pierzynski brushed off the label, but another clutch home run proved to be the difference in a 4-2 win Sunday against the L.A. Angels. He homered in the fifth consecutive game, a career high that tied the franchise record (seven times).
Pierzynski’s pinch hit, two-run homer in the seventh inning off reliever Jason Isringhausen (3-2) put the Sox ahead 3-2 en route to their fifth straight series win at home.
The pinch-hit homer was the first of the season for the Sox (59-48) and the third of Pierzynski’s career.
“I’m just getting lucky,” Pierzynski said. “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.
“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.”
Manager Robin Ventura joked that the situation played out just as he planned.
“Just waiting for the right time to unleash him,” Ventura said.
But Sunday’s result at U.S. Cellular Field nearly took a backseat to bigger concerns. Starting pitcher Francisco Liriano, in his Sox home debut, left the game after the fifth inning with a right quad contusion. A hard-hit ball by Maicer Izturis ricocheted off Liriano’s right leg for an infield single.
Liriano, who earned a no decision, stayed in the game. However, after allowing another infield single to Peter Bourjos, trainer Herm Schneider again came out to check Liriano, who threw a of couple practice pitches. He finished the inning but was replaced by Nate Jones to start the sixth.
“I was really sore and cramping a little bit, [but] I think I’ll be OK for my next start,” Liriano said.
“I was disappointed but at the same time things happen during the game, and I’m just really happy to be able to give the team a chance to win a ball game. Things like that happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Liriano said.
While Liriano’s departure was concerning because of the potential impact on the Sox’s playoff push, they were in good hands with their bullpen. Three Sox relievers combined to allow one run on four hits in four innings. In the past 13 games, the Sox bullpen has posted a 1.18 ERA with opponents hitting .189.
“It takes the adrenaline level and everything else that comes along with these big games and trying to win series and stuff like that, it puts it at a whole new level,” reliever Brett Myers. “I’m a competitor. That’s the way I was raised and that’s the games I enjoy being in.”
Addison Reed pitched a scoreless ninth for his 19th save of the season.
Kevin Youkilis again sparked the Sox late-innings comeback. Youkilis’ solo home run off Angels starter Dan Haren, his third home run in two games, ended the shutout.
“I thought we were going to win that game, I don’t know about you,” Youkilis said. “… You have to play the game all the way to the last out and good teams can find ways to manufacture runs late in the game and wear the opposition down. You gotta do both. The main thing is pitching and playing defense. This offense can score runs.”