Catcher A.J. Pierzynski has batted fifth in the Rangers' lineup for his last two starts, a minor tweak by manager Ron Washington that paid off in a big way in Monday's 7-6 comeback win over the Los Angeles Angels.
Pierzynski, one of the Rangers' hottest hitters to start the season, came up in two critical moments late in Monday's game. With the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the seventh and the Rangers trailing 6-3, Pierzynski ripped an opposite-field single to score a run. The Rangers scored two more runs in the inning to tie the score.
Pierzynski gave the Rangers the lead the next time he came up. Facing Angels closer Ernesto Frieri, Pierzynski broke a 6-6 tie with a two-out home run to right-center field. Rangers closer Joe Nathan saved the Rangers' fourth straight win in the bottom of the ninth.
Frieri had thrown 31 pitches in Sunday's 13-inning win over Detroit and wasn't sharp. Right before Pierzynski's homer, Frieri left a fastball over the middle of the plate to Adrian Beltre and the Rangers' third baseman just missed a home run to left field. Frieri made one too many mistakes, and Pierzynski made him pay.
Pierzynski did great work for the Chicago White Sox last season when he batted fifth, hitting .316 with eight of 27 home runs and 31 of his 77 RBIs.
Washington prefers not to tinker with his lineup. The batting order has stayed the same for most of the season, with David Murphy batting fifth 13 times before Pierzynski was shifted there.
On Monday night, Wash's wisdom paid off in a big way.
Washington said Sunday that he wanted to give veteran reliever Jason Frasor more opportunities out of the bullpen, a move that didn't go well Monday. With Derek Holland at 104 pitches and No. 9 hitter Luis Jimenez coming up for the Angels in the sixth inning, Washington went to Frasor. He allowed what at the time looked like a crushing two-run single to Jimenez to give the Angels a 6-3 lead. Frasor did respond with two runners in scoring position with AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout up next, getting the Angels star to pop out to second base to end the inning.