Here's an amazing stat about A.J. Pierzynski: This weekend marked the first time since 2006 that he failed to start consecutive games, under normal circumstances.
Over the past five years, it's taken unusual measures to take him out of the lineup. Ozzie Guillen sits him in the final week of the season after the Sox have been mathematically eliminated. Toby Hall started two consecutive games in July of 2007, but the first game was the second game of a doubleheader -- and Pierzynski ended up playing the last three innings of it. So given that Pierzynski ended up catching 12 innings in one day, Guillen gave him one more day off.
This time, the incredibly durable White Sox catcher couldn't get right back in the lineup after taking a pitch to the wrist on Friday. In order to find the last time Pierzynski didn't start in back-to-back games, you have to go all the way back to June 15-16 of the 2006 season, when Chris Widger took Pierzynski's place. Just like this time, the HBP knocked Pierzynski out of the lineup. Actually, Pierzynski was plunked twice, and still when it came to casualties from that game, he finished a distant second to Sean Tracey.
With Widger in the lineup, the Sox won the next two games. Tyler Flowers can make the same claim after catching a pair of victories over the Royals on Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday, Flowers hit his first major-league homer (for KenWo's kid!), along with a single and a walk over four trips to the plate. Starting the day game after a night game, he added two more singles. He's looked fine defensively, although he was charged with a throwing error on a ball Omar Vizquel should have blocked. Judging from his reaction, Vizquel looks like he thought he should've caught it.
Pierzynski will return to the lineup Tuesday, in all likelihood, and Flowers will resume playing once a week until 1) the Sox fall out of contention in September in 2011, or 2) the Sox fall out of contention in September of 2012. Quality looks for backup catchers come few and far between, so it's great to see him make a positive impact in a big series when an opportunity presents itself.
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Basestealing aside -- and that's a rather big aside -- Juan Pierre is on the verge of pushing all his offensive numbers past his 2010 averages. So Guillen feels justified in sticking with Pierre, and he's not entirely wrong...
... except when you tie it to the larger point that Pierre was one of three underperforming outfielders, and Guillen failed to address any of them. Pierre bounced back, which is a testament to his resilience. Alex Rios is hitless in his last 14 at-bats after showing signs of life, and Adam Dunn is flatlining.
Brett Ballantini focuses on the Canyonero in this great, comprehensive review of his catastrophic season:
The White Sox failed indelibly in doing so this year, with Dunn and players beyond. Instead, Dunn’s tendency to be in constant "I’m feeling better…I think" mode reflects that of the club as a whole, where every series is touted as the one where it all comes together and it defies its status as a mere .500 team.
At one point, Pierre was the easiest problem to solve. He turned his season around, which put the pressure on Bad and Worse. Maybe now that...
... Brent Lillibridge has stopped swinging and missing on three out of four pitches, Dunn will be pushed into the background. It's hard to tell at this moment, because a death in the family caused Dunn to miss the last two games.
Speaking of which, I wonder what you could get for preseason odds if you wanted to wager that Lillibridge would make starts at first base for important games in August. He appears to be a rather quick study ...
... even with some wicked hops being thrown his way. Lillibridge and John Danks were both broken by a bad break when a Billy Butler nubber kicked off something and shot up over Lillibridge's shoulder. It was originally ruled an error, but the official scorer rightfully reversed the call.
I like the ways both players handled it:
When Butler’s ball bounced up on Lillibridge in the sixth, the play initially was ruled an error before it was changed to a hit. The crowd of 25,517 booed loudly when the scoreboard showed the change, but Jeff Francoeur followed with a double to put an end to any debate.
‘‘I noticed the boos, which was one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard,’’ Danks said. ‘‘I don’t blame Lilly at all. I had two outs and should have pitched over it.’’
The Royals went on to score both their runs in the inning.
‘‘I thought it was going to be an easy out . . . and it just kicked up,’’ Lillibridge said of Butler’s hit. ‘‘Tough one. Little things to learn as a first baseman. Next time, I’ll definitely smother it and keep it in front of me.’’
And James wraps up a rather uneven week in easy-to-ready form.