A.J. Pierzynski’s homer run reaches 5 games in White Sox’ win
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org August 5, 2012 10:00PM
Pinch hitter A.J. Pierzynski follows the flight of his two-run home run in the seventh inning. | Nam Y. Huh~AP
Updated: September 7, 2012 6:15AM
The White Sox have reprogrammed their rotation to give more rest to the starters for the anticipated September grind.
But an unanticipated rest for catcher A.J. Pierzynski is turning into an offensive bonus.
Pierzynski tied a franchise record Sunday by hitting a home run in his fifth consecutive game, and he wasn’t even scheduled to play.
But his pinch-hit two-run blast in the seventh inning against Jason Isringhausen proved to be the decisive blow in a 4-2 victory that gave the Sox the weekend series against the Los Angeles Angels.
‘‘[Adam] Dunn and I were laughing about it on the bench,’’ Pierzynski said. ‘‘I’m not supposed to do that. Now it’s one of those things that you try to ride out as long as you can.’’
Pierzynski’s career-best home-run count is at 21.
He wasn’t starting in a day game after a night game, but manager Robin Ventura summoned him with the Sox trailing 2-1 after Dayan Viciedo singled.
The two-run blast was the first pinch-hit homer for the Sox this season and only the third of Pierzynski’s career.
‘‘He’s always had power, but that rib thing gave him a little break, and he’s come back strong,’’ Ventura said.
Pierzynski missed five games more than a week ago because of a mild right oblique strain. He still ices his ribs after games.
‘‘I think since it happened [while] swinging, it’s keeping me a little more connected,’’ he said. ‘‘We talk about having a connected swing, and I think [the home runs] are because of that.’’
At 35 and a free agent-to-be, Pierzynski, the conventional thinking goes, might be in his last season with the team he joined in 2005. But that could be debatable as the Sox try win another title with Pierzynski having a career year.
The Sox maintained a 1½-game lead in the American League Central over the Detroit Tigers by winning the series against a team with its own playoff aspirations.
‘‘The Angels came in hot, and they have a great team,’’ Pierzynski said. ‘‘To come back in all three games and win two of them is big for us and a good measuring stick because we know we’ll see them again in Anaheim. Hopefully, this gives us confidence.’’
The offense was a key in the series, and Pierzynski and Kevin Youkilis were the catalysts after the Sox trailed in each game.
‘‘It was good to get that home run from A.J., then an extra run in the eighth,’’ said Youkilis, who has hit three homers in the last two games. ‘‘It was great to have the offense, but the pitching and defense have been good. That’s the key to winning.’’
Starter Francisco Liriano fared better than Philip Humber and Gavin Floyd early, trailing only 1-0 through five.
But he was struck above the right knee in the fifth by Maicer Izturis’ single and was lifted after the inning when bruising developed.
‘‘It was really sore and cramping a little bit, but I think I’ll be OK for my next start,’’ Liriano said.
The bullpen came through again, with Nate Jones (5-0) allowing one run before Brett Myers and Addison Reed finished.
‘‘It’s like every time I get up in the bullpen, there’s a homer,’’ Myers said of entering after Pierzynski’s blast. ‘‘It takes the adrenaline level [up] and everything else that comes along with these big games and trying to win series. It puts it at a whole new level.’’
The Sox are 9-3 in their last 12 games and 12-2 in their last 14 home games.
‘‘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 [the opponent].’’