ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- The sellout crowd at Angel Stadium roared
its approval after A.J. Pierzynski was hit by a Kelvim Escobar
pitch. Apparently, the hard feelings from last year's AL
Championship Series haven't cooled.
The incident in the second inning of Chicago's 2-1 victory over
the Los Angeles Angels stood out in another splendid performance by
White Sox right-hander Jose Contreras, who recorded his 12th
straight regular-season victory.Contreras (4-0) threw 103 pitches in 8 1-3 innings, allowing
five hits and one run with one walk. The right-hander is 15-2 with
a 2.58 ERA in 20 starts since last year's All-Star break."Contreras dealt, and we got a win. That's the biggest thing,"
Pierzynski said. "The way he pitched, it's a shame that no one's
going to be talking about that tomorrow. They're going to be
talking about all this stupid stuff. But Jose deserves a lot of
credit. To go out there on this field against their lineup and go 8
1-3 with one run and pretty much dominate the game is pretty
impressive."Contreras started the opening game in all three postseason
series last year for the defending World Series champions and was
the winning pitcher in the final game of the ALCS, beating the
Angels 9-4 with the fourth-straight complete game by the White Sox.Jermaine Dye drove in Chicago's first run with an RBI single in
the fourth against Escobar (3-2), who came out after five innings
because of a blood blister. Jim Thome made it 2-0 in the sixth with
a first-pitch homer to center field against Brendan Donnelly,
eclipsing Frank Thomas' 1996 club record for homers in April.Escobar allowed a run and three hits. He is 0-7 with a 5.64 ERA
in nine career regular-season starts against the White Sox, and
also lost two games in relief against them in the ALCS -- including
the Game 5 clincher.Pierzynski once again found himself in the middle of the matchup
between the two teams. He is widely regarded by Angels fans as
Public Enemy No. 1 ever since three pivotal plays he was involved
in went against the Angels in the playoffs.He was struck on the back of the right leg by an Escobar pitch
in the second inning -- resulting in a warning to both dugouts.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and Angels counterpart Mike
Scioscia argued separately with plate umpire Paul Nauert about the
warning."People in this league think I'm a headhunter. Anytime one of
my players get hit, they warn me out of nowhere," Guillen said.
"I know the umpires have to protect the integrity of the game and
protect the players -- and they're right. But I'm getting tired of
them giving me a warning every time our guy gets hit. We get hit
more than any team in baseball. So if they think I'm a headhunter,
they've got the wrong guy."Pierzynski is the only batter Escobar has hit in 29 innings this
season. But Pierzynski and Guillen absolved Scioscia of any the
blame and pointed to Escobar."I have no problem at all with Mike Scioscia," said
Pierzynski, who was booed by the crowd of 44,065 every time he
batted. "He seems like a class guy, a standup guy. He's a great
manager, he's had some great teams and he goes about his business
the right way, so I have nothing but the utmost respect for him."Scioscia denied any intent regarding the pitch that struck
Pierzynski, and any inference that the Angels had a score to settle
with him."The umpire was telling me that it's well-documented, the
problem with Pierzynski -- but I'm not aware of any problem,"
Scioscia said. "We have no problem with Pierzynski, and we're not
about to throw at their guys or go about our business in that
manner. That misinformation from the umpires is disturbing -- very
disturbing."Escobar was relieving in the ninth inning of Game 2, trying to
help the Angels take a 2-0 lead in the series, when Pierzynski
swung at a low pitch and plate ump Doug Eddings pumped his fist.
Escobar and rookie catcher Josh Paul both thought it was the third
out, and Paul rolled the ball back to the mound while Pierzynski
took off for first base.Joe Crede drove in pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna later that inning
with a walkoff double that tied the series, and the White Sox won
the next three games at Anaheim to advance to their first World
Series since 1959."I don't know why he hit me," Pierzynski said. "I don't know
what I did. I didn't do anything to show him up. I just ran to
first. Maybe he should hit the guy who rolled the ball back to the
pitcher."Escobar said, "I don't think he did anything to me last year.
He was doing his job. He ran to first base. It's too bad, because
they think I did it on purpose. I overthrew it. I wasn't trying to
hit him. I guess because of all the controversy from last year, it
got to that point."Pierzynski was involved in two other controversial plays, one in
Game 4 by plate ump Ron Kulpa, who didn't call catcher's
interference on Pierzynski on Steve Finley's double-play grounder.Then, in the eighth inning of the Game 5 clincher, Pierzynski
reached base after Escobar tagged him with his glove -- while the
ball was in the pitcher's other hand. A brief argument ensued after
Pierzynski was called out, and the decision was reversed.Bobby Jenks got Edgardo Alfonzo to line out with two on in the
ninth inning for his seventh save in seven chances.
Anaheim's Casey Kotchman snapped an 0-for-17 drought with a
fifth-inning single, but was tagged out by Pierzynski in a rundown
between first and second on an aborted stolen base attempt. ...
Orlando Cabrera drove in the Angels' run with a sixth-inning
double. Opposing batters were 0-for-17 this season against
Contreras with runners in scoring position before that hit.