White Sox, Angels clash in Anaheim
Chicago (14-7) at Los Angeles (12-10), Friday, 9:05 p.m. CT
A.J. Pierzynski never is one to pull back an opinion, whether he's right on the money with his thoughts or way off target.
But when asked how he felt about his role as Public Enemy No. 1 in Anaheim, as the 2005 American League Championship Series rematch takes shape as a 2006 regular-season, three-game series beginning Friday at Angel Stadium, Pierzynski responded with a very salient point.
"Why isn't Joe Crede being called Public Enemy No. 1?" asked Pierzynski Wednesday with a slightly crooked smile. "Joe Crede is the one that got all the hits.
"It just breaks my heart," added Pierzynski, in regard to the expected negative reaction coming his way from the Angels' faithful. "Honestly, it makes me laugh, I do know that. I know after the strikeout game, I got booed pretty good. It's just part of the game. This team got a big chuckle out of it, which was good."
"The strikeout game," referred to by Pierzynski, features one of the biggest moments in White Sox postseason history. Strangely enough, that moment centered on a dropped third strike with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of Game 2 of the ALCS that Angels catcher Josh Paul thought he caught and that home-plate umpire Doug Eddings never made a truly decisive call on in either direction. Pierzynski, playing heads-up baseball, ran to first base and stayed there after an umpires' conference on the field.
Pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna scored the game-winning run one battler later on Crede's double off reliever Kelvim Escobar, evening the series at one victory apiece. The White Sox traveled to Anaheim and locked up their first World Series berth since 1959 on the strength of three straight complete games from Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras, coming on the heels of Mark Buehrle's complete game in Game 2.
In a strange twist of fate, Garcia, Contreras and Garland will pitch this weekend in Anaheim -- just in a different order. The relievers might actually get into a game or two, unlike the 2005 ALCS, when Neal Cotts was the only hurler out of the bullpen to ever see the field.
"Every now and then we got up, just in case it started raining and the starter had to come out or something," said White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, in regard to the lack of relief work during the ALCS. "Other than that, we had the pillows for our butts. We were quite comfy.
"When we get there [Friday], it will go through our heads what our starters did and what we accomplished there as a team. But once we get to that hour before game time, it's over. It's a new year."
Jeff Weaver, who was pitching for the Dodgers in 2005, starts up the rivalry once again Friday night against Garcia. Weaver is 5-5 lifetime against the White Sox with a 3.52 earned run average, while Garcia enters the start tied with Wilson Alvarez for the most career victories by a native Venezuelan at 102.
Pierzynski should be crowned the visiting player who is the biggest object of jeers and boos in Anaheim by the time this weekend series is complete. But as Pierzynski mentioned, it comes with the territory after last season's strange road to success.
And it's that high level of success which makes the White Sox a target in pretty much any series they play away from home. That target sits just fine with manager Ozzie Guillen.
"I love to be the target," Guillen said. "That means we did something to be the target. It's one thing about when people talk about you good or bad, at least they are worried about you. I heard that [said by] Madonna. That's the way it is.
"They are a good ballclub, and I never like to play against Anaheim. The manager [Mike Scioscia] is one of the best managers in baseball. To me, he's one of the guys who will keep you on the edge and make the guys play the game right. But we have to go at it like its 2006 and 2005 is over. We have to play the way we've played lately."
As for Pierzynski, he's ready for the intensely negative reaction to come his way. He doesn't remember anything specifically harsh from the three ALCS games in Anaheim last year. It was more along the lines of high comedy.
"I remember this lady sitting next to the on-deck circle," Pierzynski said. "She looked just like [actress] Courtney Cox -- I don't know if it was her or not. But she kept looking at me and saying, 'You [stink], you [stink].'
"Obviously, it's a series that a lot of people are going to look at, try and take stock in it, but at the same time, it is early in the year. It's a different year, different team, and it's not the postseason, where things are turned up a notch.
"It's going to be fun, and I'm sure the crowd will be excited, the teams will be excited," Pierzynski added. "I'm sure the media will hype it up, but it's just another series."
CWS: RHP Freddy Garcia (3-1, 6.23 ERA)
Garcia matched Alvarez's career victory total for a Venezuelan native with Saturday's victory over the Twins. The right-hander and Alvarez each have 102 victories, with Garcia going for the record in the series opener against the Angels. Garcia wasn't overpowering against Minnesota but battled his way to a third straight victory, allowing only two runs over 6 2/3 innings and 113 pitches. Garcia has an 11-3 career record against the Angels, with a 2.66 ERA. That total does not include his complete-game victory in the American League Championship Series.
LAA: RHP Jeff Weaver (1-2, 5.33 ERA)
Weaver sailed through most of his last start when he retired the first eight batters before allowing a single. His lone mistake was to Nick Swisher, who hit a grand slam. Weaver allowed four runs on six hits and a walk. He also struck out five to pick up the win.
Player to watch
With 14 career decisions against the Angels, Garcia has become a very familiar face to the Los Angeles' hitters. While Tim Salmon has a .375 average in 40 at-bats against Garcia, left-handed hitter Garret Anderson appears to pose the biggest threat. Anderson has seven doubles, one home run and seven RBIs in 67 career at-bats against the White Sox right-hander.
Saturday: White Sox (RHP Jose Contreras, 3-0, 1.55 ERA) at Angels (RHP Kelvim Escobar, 3-1, 3.75 ERA), 9:05 CT
Sunday: White Sox (RHP Jon Garland, 2-1, 7.30) at Angels (RHP Ervin Santana, 2-0, 2.96 ERA), 3:05 CT
Monday: White Sox (RHP Javier Vazquez, 2-1, 3.67) at Cleveland (LHP Clif Lee, 2-1, 2.97), 6:05 CT
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.