After calling Chicago home for eight seasons, A.J. Pierzynski has settled in nicely with the Texas Rangers.
Yu Darvish is especially glad to have him behind the plate.
Pierzynski faces his former team for the first time as the Rangers open a three-game set against the visiting White Sox on Tuesday night.
A fan favorite from 2005-12, Pierzynski helped lead Chicago to a World Series championship during his first year with the club. The two sides, though, went in different directions this offseason, with the White Sox (10-14) turning to Tyler Flowers and Hector Gimenez and Pierzynski signing a one-year deal with Texas (16-9).
"I don't know if it makes it any less strange or anything, or more strange," White Sox manager Robin Ventura told MLB's official website. "But you know it will be good to see him. He's chatty. I don't have to bat. So I don't have to listen to that part. I'm sure he'll be chatty."
Batting .303 with two homers during an eight-game hitting streak, Pierzynski has had arguably an even bigger impact behind the plate - especially when it comes to Darvish's development.
"He's an unselfish person, an unselfish catcher and he lets me lead the game," Darvish said through an interpreter. "He lets me pitch my game. I think he's a very good catcher and I really like pitching with him."
Darvish (4-1, 1.65 ERA) has been tremendous in his second season since coming over from Japan, striking out a major league-leading 49 over 32 2-3 innings. He struck out 11 and allowed three hits over six innings in Wednesday's 11-3 road win over the Los Angeles Angels, extending his scoreless innings streak to 18.
"This is about as dominant as I've seen someone," manager Ron Washington said. "This guy is finesse and power. He can do either of those, and because he can do either of those when he's on he can make good hitters look bad. When he's not on, he has enough in his repertoire that he can still hang in the ballgame."
The Rangers could surely use another dominant display from Darvish as they try to bounce back from back-to-back losses for the first time this season. Texas is coming off a four-game split at Minnesota after falling 7-2 on Saturday and 5-0 on Sunday.
"It's hard to win when you don't score any runs," Pierzynski said. "We really didn't have a lot of opportunities."
The Rangers, who prior to Monday hadn't had a day off since April 17, have gone 10 for 54 (.185) with runners in scoring position over their last six games.
"The off day is definitely needed," Washington said. "This is the big leagues. You can't be complaining about the schedule. We're not going to make any excuses."
The White Sox are also looking to avoid a third straight loss after splitting a four-game set against Tampa Bay. Paul Konerko hit a two-run homer in Sunday's 8-3 defeat, Chicago's sixth in nine games.
"We just have to keep grinding," Konerko said.
The White Sox turn to Jose Quintana (2-0, 2.78), who's won back-to-back starts and compiled a 0.96 ERA over his last three. The left-hander gave up two runs and four hits over five-plus innings Wednesday in a 3-2 win over Cleveland.
Quintana allowed one run, two hits and struck out a career-high eight over eight innings in a 2-1 win July 5 in his only appearance against Texas.
In his lone matchup versus Chicago, Darvish was tagged for six runs over 6 1-3 innings of a 9-5 defeat July 27.
The White Sox took six of nine from Texas last season, splitting six games in Arlington.
The Associated Press News Service
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