The White Sox seem to be embracing the unenviable spoilers' role.
Before returning to U.S. Cellular Field to play the first-place Rangers this weekend, the Sox all but knocked the Royals out of wild-card contention by sweeping a three-game series at Kansas City.
In Saturday night's Civil Rights Game against Texas, the White Sox overcame some erratic pitching from starter Hector Santiago (3 hit batters, naturally including A.J. Pierzynski) and rallied for a 3-2 victory.
Josh Phegley decided the outcome with an RBI single to left field with two outs in the ninth inning as the Sox (53-75) won for the seventh time in eight games.
"Guys are just continuing to play hard," manager Robin Ventura said. "It's fun. When you get young guys that are up here for the first time and Phegs gets a walk-off, that's all good stuff."
Tyler Flowers got the start at catcher but was lifted for pinch hitter Jeff Keppinger in the seventh inning and replaced by Phegley in the eighth.
Phegley has cooled off following a red-hot start after coming up from Class AAA Charlotte in early July, but he came through with a big hit off Tanner Scheppers to score Avisail Garcia from third base.
Garcia had singled with one out in the ninth to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
"Scheppers, I've faced him in college," Phegley said. "I know he's a hard thrower and I just tried to get my foot down and get the barrel on something. And I knew a strikeout wouldn't help us there, and if you can just get the bat on the ball and get something through the infield, game over.
"So it just happened to be a pretty good swing and a line drive through there."
Santiago was effectively wild, pitching 61⁄3 innings and allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks in addition to plunking three batters. The left-hander drilled Pierzynski in the back in the second inning.
"I get comfortable and kind of lose two or three and end up behind in the count," Santiago said. "I try to make good pitches, still not trying to give in behind in the count.
"You definitely battle and get through it. I don't think any of my walks or hit by pitches scored today."
A.J. talks Flowers:
Last year A.J. Pierzynski was the White Sox' No. 1 catcher for the eighth straight season, with Tyler Flowers serving as his backup.
The Sox didn't want Pierzynski back this season, so the free agent signed a one-year contract with the Rangers.
As for Flowers, he's batting .190 after striking out twice in as many at-bats Saturday, and he has lost his starting job to Josh Phegley.
Pierzynski had a long chat with Flowers in the tunnel leading to the White Sox' clubhouse Friday.
"Catching is hard, for a lot of reasons," Pierzynski said. "Obviously, not only the catching part, but the hitting part. And people nowadays expect everyone to be able to come up and jump right in and not have any kind of difficulties.
"I think that Tyler … I like Tyler. I still think he can be a good player. I still think he can contribute to a major-league team and do some things."