In the end, Crede and A.J. in the middle
Third baseman, catcher play big part in Sox winning pennant
ANAHEIM -- It was fitting that Chicago's run to the American League pennant culminated with White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, center fielder Aaron Rowand and third baseman Joe Crede standing triumphantly on the mound at Angel Stadium holding the American League Championship trophy after topping the Angels, 6-3, in Game 5 to clinch the AL Championship Series on Sunday.
The White Sox are going to their first World Series since 1959 -- and now will attempt to become world champs for the first time since 1917 -- and they did it with the jovial trio right in the middle of the action. Pierzynski and Crede, the dynamic duo, have to be getting used to being the center of attention.
"A.J. is always in the middle of controversy, even in the clubhouse," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think the kid is a smart player. He's a baseball player. He's not the best athlete, but he comes to play every day. He does everything he can to help the team win."
The same can be said for Crede. In the eighth inning, the third baseman hit a single up the middle that scored Rowand to break a 3-3 tie to put the White Sox ahead for good. It came as no surprise to anyone who has followed the White Sox. Crede has a history of coming up with the big hit at the right moment.
In Game 2, when Pierzynski reached base after the now famous strike-three and ball in the dirt call in the ninth inning, it was Crede who drove in pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna from second base for the winning run. Moreover, Crede finished Sunday's game with three RBIs and seven total RBIs for the series. He hit his second home run of the ALCS in the seventh inning off Angels reliever Kelvim Escobar to tie the score, 3-3.
"Joe deserves all the credit in the world," Pierzynski said. "It still came down to Joe getting a hit and he did it. He's done it all series and he's done it all year."
It was a team effort, but in the eventful eighth it was a familiar cast of characters that provided the drama. Escobar struck out Paul Konerko and Carl Everett for the first two outs of the inning.
Then it got interesting.
Pierzynski followed a walk by Rowand and hit a liner that ricocheted off Escobar. Escobar recovered, picked up the ball near the mound with his right hand and attempted to tag out Pierzynski as the pair was running down the first base line.
Escobar did tag him -- just with his empty glove. He then tossed the ball to a surprised Darin Erstad, who was standing off first base, as Pierzynski stepped on the bag.
First base umpire Randy Marsh originally called Pierzynski out, but the call was changed after Guillen stormed out of the dugout to argue. A conference of umpires came to the same conclusion -- Pierzynski was safe and the Angels were charged with an error.
"He had me out, but he tagged me with the wrong hand and we'll take it," Pierzynski said. "He made a mistake and that's why he threw the ball to first."
Said Guillen: "When I [saw] the play, I knew 100 percent that the guy did not have the ball in his hand."
Pierzynski was also involved in a disputed play in Game 4 when Angels center fielder Steve Finley nicked his catcher's mitt during an at-bat. Finley hit into a double play on the swing and Pierzynski later said he felt Finley's bat touch his glove, which would have been catcher's interference.
"I'm in the middle of everything," Pierzynski said. "That's the story of my career."
As for Crede's heroic eighth inning, he hit a single up the middle on a full count against Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez to score Rowand from second base. Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy fielded Crede's hit, but his throw home was late and off the mark.
"It was situation where we try to take advantage of and fortunately we were able to do it," Crede said. "We had a runner at second base, I don't know how many outs there were."
It didn't matter. The White Sox were leading, and Crede and Pierzynski were big reasons why, as usual.
"A.J is outstanding and we are lucky to have him on our team," Rowand said. "What he has done with the pitching staff and what he has done offensively ... bottom line, he is a winner."
So is Crede.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.