Pierzynski Bails Out Jenks, White Sox

Saturday, September 9th 2006, 9:56 am
By: News On 6

The Chicago White Sox blew a ninth-inning lead, bounced right back and gained a game in the AL Central race. Thanks to Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, the Minnesota Twins had a much easier night.

After closer Bobby Jenks quickly squandered a two-run cushion, A.J. Pierzynski bailed him out by hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth Friday to give Chicago a 7-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

``It's amazing how it goes up and down, back and forth,'' said Pierzynski, who pumped his fist while rounding the bases and flipped off his helmet before he was mobbed by teammates at home plate.

The wild win kept the White Sox a half-game behind Minnesota in the wild-card race and moved third-place Chicago within 4 1/2 games of AL Central-leading Detroit.

The Twins are four back in the division after Morneau had three RBIs and Mauer added three hits to raise his league-leading average to .348 in a 9-5 victory over the visiting Tigers.

``You've got to be able to at least contain them,'' Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. ``You're not going to control them totally, but you've got to be able to control them a little bit. They showed tonight why they're both great hitters.''

In other AL games, it was: Kansas City 10, Boston 9; Baltimore 9, New York 4; Oakland 8, Tampa Bay 6; Los Angeles 4, Toronto 1; and Seattle 7, Texas 2.

Torii Hunter added two hits and two RBIs for the Twins, who scored more than two runs just twice in their previous 11 games.

And there was more good news for Minnesota: Francisco Liriano was scheduled to make a rehab start for Triple-A Rochester on Saturday. The rookie sensation has been on the disabled list since Aug. 8 with a strained ligament in his pitching arm.

``He'll probably throw up to 50 pitches and we'll see where we go from there,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Magglio Ordonez had three hits and four RBIs for Detroit, which took the series opener Thursday night.

Pat Neshek (4-1) threw 1 1-3 innings of scoreless relief to back rookie starter Matt Garza and give Minnesota a much-needed win.

Detroit's Wilfredo Ledezma (2-3) lasted just 4 1-3 innings, giving up five runs and nine hits.

At Chicago, Jenks gave up four consecutive doubles in a span of seven pitches to start the ninth as the Indians suddenly turned a 5-3 deficit into a 6-5 lead.

``I made some good pitches and they got some quick hits,'' Jenks said.

It was the fourth blown save in 43 chances for the right-hander, who had an MRI on his sore hip Tuesday after blowing a save Monday night in Boston. The test revealed no structural damage.

``The radar gun was saying 96 (mph), but it wasn't the 96 he usually has,'' said Pierzynski, Chicago's catcher. ``A little less.''

Matt Thornton (5-2) finally ended the rally, and Paul Konerko singled leading off the bottom half for his fourth hit.

After failing to get a bunt down on the first pitch, Pierzynski connected to right-center on an 0-2 delivery from Tom Mastny (0-1).

``I feel good now I didn't get the bunt down,'' Pierzynski said.

Royals 10, Red Sox 9

At Boston, Joey Gathright hit a go-ahead, two-run double with two outs in the ninth and Kansas City put another dent in Boston's playoff hopes.

Mike Sweeney homered and had three RBIs for the Royals. After allowing six runs in the eighth and falling behind 9-8, they scored twice against Mike Timlin (6-5) in the ninth to extend their winning streak over Boston to four games.

David Ortiz had three hits and four RBIs for the Red Sox, who dropped 6 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the wild-card standings. Jason Varitek homered for Boston.

Orioles 9, Yankees 4

At Baltimore, Erik Bedard (13-9) allowed four hits in six innings to earn his first victory since July 23 and the Orioles snapped a four-game skid. Melvin Mora, Jay Gibbons and David Newhan homered for Baltimore, which chased Cory Lidle (3-3) while building a 7-0 lead in the second.

Athletics 8, Devil Rays 6

At St. Petersburg, Fla., Nick Swisher hit a grand slam for his 30th homer and Frank Thomas added his 33rd of the season to back Dan Haren (13-11). Thomas drove in three runs for AL West-leading Oakland. Huston Street came off the disabled list and earned his 30th save.

Angels 4, Blue Jays 1

At Anaheim, Calif., Joe Saunders (5-2) pitched effectively into the eighth inning, and Garret Anderson and Mike Napoli homered to help Los Angeles win its sixth straight.

The two-time defending AL West champs, who were a season-worst 11 games under .500 on May 22, are now a season-high 11 over at 76-65. It's the biggest reversal in franchise history, but the Angels still trail Oakland by 5 1/2 games with seven meetings left during the final 10 days of the season.

Francisco Rodriguez earned his 40th save in 43 attempts. A.J. Burnett (7-7) gave up three runs in seven innings.

Mariners 7, Rangers 2

At Seattle, Richie Sexson set a Mariners record with his fifth grand slam of the season and Cha Seung Baek (3-0) pitched seven shutout innings.

It was Sexson's 14th career slam. Kenji Johjima hit a three-run homer off Kevin Millwood (14-10), and Joel Pineiro got his first career save.