Instant Rationalization - Pinch-hit Pierzynski blast delivers series victory

Instant Rationalization - Pinch-hit Pierzynski blast delivers series victory
Thigh touch! // José M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune

Seeing as my entire life will surely pass by without me finding my home run stroke, I cannot fault A.J. Pierzynski for needing until age 35 to find his.  The man who hit eight home runs in 129 games last season has now hit five in just as many contests.

The most recent A.J. outburst was a pinch-hit, two-run, go-ahead home run in the 7th inning off of Jason Isringhausen, shaking the Sox free of a dreary offensive day against Dan Haren, who had been in position for a win after Nate Jones yielded an RBI single in his second inning of work in the top half of the frame.

A Kevin Youkilis solo shot was the only tally the Sox could muster against the Angels starter, who nevertheless ran up a high pitch count and was pulled after six innings.

Both Haren and Sox starter Francisco Liriano were brilliant early, matching each other with zeroes for the first four frames.  A Maicer Itzuris line drive off of Liriano's thigh in the 5th eventually led to an RBI sac fly, and a contusion that would end Francisco's day after the inning.

A Paul Konerko leadoff single in the 8th looked to be on its way to being stranded until Alexei Ramirez's sinking line drive glanced off the glove of a diving Torii Hunter for a triple.  Pinch-runner Rey Olmedo scored from 1st base in his first appearance with the team, providing insurance for Addison Reed's 19th save.

White Sox 4, Angels 2

Key Performers

Francisco Liriano - 5 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 4 K, 0 H, 72 pitches - Looked pretty good, hope he's ok. (UPDATE: He is!...probably)

A.J. Pierzynski - 1 for 2, HR, 2 RBI, K - Such an un-Pierzynski line.  I have no idea what's going on with him.

Kevin Youkilis - 1 for 2, HR, 2 BB - He likes it here - .400/.538/.840 at U.S. Cellular Field (h/t @ckamka).

Paul Konerko - 3 for 4 - The pop still isn't there, but with the constant concerns around him, it was nice to see good swings.

Turning Point

A.J. Pierzynski was 0 for 5 in pinch-hit opportunities coming into the day, and just that he had that many shows you how many times Robin has gotten two-thirds of the way through a Tyler Flowers spot start and decided he's had enough.

Flowers was 0 for 2 on the day with a strikeout, so after Dayan Viciedo led off the 7th with a single, Ventura called upon the third best hitter in his lineup to take a cut.

Pierzynski lifted a Jason Isringhausen 89-mph fastball, at a trajectory that made Hawk lament "He just missed it....I think".  But the ball kept carrying out to right-center, barely clearly a wall that thankfully didn't have Mike Trout patrolling it.

Things Would Be Different If...

Nate Jones nearly wore the L for this game, but it was also his third straight day of work.  A combination of a six-man rotation and short starts (both due to quality and injury) tested the pen badly, and they responded with 12 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 12 K, 0 HR over the series.

Takeaway

A hard-fought series win against a contending team is impressive enough, but the Sox accomplished it without receiving a single quality start.  Since Liriano's thigh contusion is thought to not be serious, the remarkable nature of the feat can be admired....all the way until Sale, Peavy, and Quintana demonstrate how healthy they are next week, and the extent to which Humber and Floyd will need to be relied upon is made clear.

Cleveland's complete 10th inning meltdown in Detroit means no ground was gained.

Team Record: 58-47, 1.5 games up

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