May 2005 was A.J. Pierzynski’s most powerful month in his eight years in a White Sox uniform.
Like plenty of other hitters dealing with the suboptimal hitting conditions of April — including teammates Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye — Pierzynski had a slowish start in the first month with his new team. A .269 average and a .329 on-base percentage hardly counts as an awful stretch, but Pierzynski had just one home run and only two RBIs in his first 19 games of the season.
That turned around in a hurry, and it started May 4 against the Kansas City Royals.
Pierzynski launched a two-run homer as part of a two-out rally in the fourth inning, the blast proving to be the difference in a 4-2 White Sox win.
Math aficionados will know that was just his second homer and third and fourth RBIs. But by the end of May, Pierzynski had eight home runs and 19 RBIs.
What changed? He unleashed the thunder in his bat, hitting seven homers while posting a .557 slugging percentage and a .903 OPS. All those numbers rank among the best in a single month of Pierzynski’s White Sox career.
The seven homers are the most Pierzynski ever hit in a month with the White Sox. The .557 slugging percentage was topped just three more times and not again until August 2011. Same goes for the .903 OPS, which was bested just twice.
So it’s not to say that Pierzynski’s offensive success in May 2005 was a rarity, as he was a good hitting catcher throughout his South Side tenure. But the specific power numbers were rarely seen again, certainly not over the following five seasons. So in a way, this was power from an unexpected source, and it helped the White Sox play eight games above .500 during the month.
As #SoxRewind continues moving through that month of May, we’ll see more explosive hitting from Pierzynski. The home runs came in a concentrated bunch from there, with the catcher homering in four straight games from May 14 through May 18.
But this one from May 4 was the very first, a helpful launch for Pierzynski to bust out of his early season power slump and the beginning of the most powerful month of his White Sox career.
— It’s hard to imagine that in the year they won the World Series, Hawk Harrelson wasn’t behind the mic for every inning. But this one featured the broadcasting team of Darrin Jackson and Donn Pall while Harrelson was recovering from corrective eye surgery. The man they called “The Pope” had a pretty nice career pitching for his hometown team, posting a 3.45 ERA in 394.1 innings out of the bullpen.
— Jermaine Dye hit one of his two triples of 2005 in this one. He sent a deep fly ball to the warning track in right field, and while Matt Stairs made an admirable effort, the ball bounced off his glove and rolled away, allowing Dye to make it all the way to third. He had to wait four months for the next one, tripling off Jarrod Washburn, the pitcher the White Sox faced in Game 2 of the ALCS that postseason, in an early September game against the Los Angeles Angels.
— Mike Sweeney was a notorious “White Sox killer” during his lengthy and productive career with the Royals. He drove in both Kansas City runs in this game. His numbers in 2005 were downright ridiculous in his 15 games against the South Siders: .362/.426/.759 with five homers, eight doubles, eight walks, 10 runs scored and 15 RBIs.
— Cliff Politte did an excellent job putting out Freddy Garcia’s fire in the top of the seventh inning. Garcia pitched another strong game, but he departed after loading the bases on a pair of walks and a base hit in the seventh. Politte entered with the bases juiced and only one out against the aforementioned “Sox killer” Sweeney. He got Sweeney to fly out, driving in one run, but ended the inning four pitches later with a strikeout of Ken Harvey. That sacrifice fly was the last of the scoring, as Damaso Marte and Dustin Hermanson finished off the Royals in another great job by the White Sox bullpen.
— I wrote about Jon Garland’s remarkable start to the 2005 season Friday. But Garcia strung together some sterling efforts, as well, in these early weeks of the campaign. With 6.1 innings of two-run ball in this game, he turned in a third straight strong outing. In those three starts, he allowed just five earned runs in 20.1 innings (a 2.21 ERA). He had a few more stretches that stacked up to this one during the season, but not many that were better.
Since you been gone
While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?
May 3, 2005: The Royals broke a 2-all tie with a pair of solo homers off Mark Buehrle in the top of the sixth. The White Sox clawed back, with an Aaron Rowand homer halving the deficit and a two-run double by Carl Everett in the eighth delivering the tying and winning runs. White Sox win, 5-4, improve to 19-7.
#SoxRewind rolls on Sunday, when you can catch the May 5, 2005, game against the Royals, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Buckle up, this is a wacky one.