Pierzynski does it all in Game 1
Perfect day at the plate, calling of Contreras keys to rout
CHICAGO -- White Sox outfielder Aaron Rowand had heard all the musings about A.J. Pierzynski before he joined the club this season. He had heard how Pierzynski was a clubhouse cancer and didn't get along with teammates. He had played against the catcher and saw the aggressive nature that often caused extreme dislike from opponents.
But more importantly, Rowand knew the offense that Pierzynski could generate with his bat and what he could do behind the plate with a pitching staff.
It was those two things that Pierzynski displayed throughout the season and again in the White Sox's 14-2 victory over the Red Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday.
While the superb catching has become expected of him, it was an outstanding performance at the plate for Pierzynski that stood out in the franchise's first home playoff win since 1959. Pierzysnki homered twice and finished 3-for-3 with four runs scored and four RBIs.
It was a surprising day for the hitter that had gone over a month since his last home run, but something his teammates expected might happen soon.
"He was due," Paul Konerko said. "It's been a while since he hit a home run, so we knew it was coming. He couldn't pick a better day to get going."
Success in the postseason is nothing new for Pierzynski. In his first playoff game with the Twins, Pierzynski went 4-for-4 with a triple and an RBI. That performance came in Game 1 of the 2002 ALDS against Oakland.
Having some postseason experience under his belt gave Pierzynski a slight edge over several Chicago teammates who had never been to the playoffs. But that didn't mean that he wasn't without some nerves on Tuesday.
"You still get some butterflies," Pierzynski said. "But I was just laughing, because the guys come up to you and say, 'My hands and legs are shaking.' I kind of laughed because I have been there."
Sharing his experiences of what to expect with his teammates is a drastic change from the portrait that was painted of the catcher before he came to the White Sox, but something he also showed in his play. It was on display before he even hit his first home run of the day. With a man on third and two outs in the first, Pierzynski attempted to lay down a bunt to score a third run that ended up going foul.
Not exactly known for his running abilities, Pierzynski felt that it would give the team its best chance to score the man on third, and he was upset when he wasn't able to make it happen.
"I was just trying to take advantage of the situation," Pierzynski said. "I was kind of mad at myself because it would have been an easy run for us, but it worked out."
Despite putting together an offensive performance that will be remembered by South Sider fans for years to come, it was Pierzynski's calling of the game for pitcher Jose Contreras that left the biggest impact on his teammates.
"The way he called pitches and did all that, as a catcher, that's his first priority, and I thought he called a heck of a game back there," Konerko said. "Against some tough hitters, he called a good game at times. Forget the home runs, I thought he [called a good game] and that's more important than the homers."
The most important impact of all, though, may be the one Pierzynski has made on his teammates this season. Once ignored and disdained by his San Francisco teammates, Pierzynski has now been fully embraced by the his new club.
"He's brought a lot to this club offensively and energy-wise," Rowand added. "He comes to play every day. We are just glad to have him here."
After Tuesday's performance, so are White Sox fans.
Kelly Thesier is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.