At the center of the rivalry is White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who seemed to be in the middle of every controversial play during last year’s ALCS against the Angels.
“Hey get ready, Anaheim is coming to town looking for you,” pitcher Freddy Garcia said to Pierzynski after Chicago’s 3-2 win over Kansas City on Sunday.
In Game 2 of the ALCS, Pierzynski ran to first base after strike three when plate umpire Doug Eddings ruled Anaheim catcher Josh Paul trapped Kelvim Escobar’s pitch with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Moments later, Joe Crede hit the game-winning double to tie the series at 1-1.
In Game 4, plate umpire Ron Kulpa didn’t call interference after Pierzynski’s glove tipped Steve Finley’s bat, causing a double-play grounder.
And with two outs in the eighth inning of Game 5, Pierzynski hit a hard shot off Escobar, who picked up the ball and tagged Pierzynski with his glove. The ball, however, was in Escobar’s right hand.
The teams met at the end of April in Anaheim with the White Sox sweeping the three-game series. Three Chicago batters were hit during the series, including Pierzynski by Escobar.
Pierzynski is the only batter Escobar has hit this season, but the Angels denied it was intentional.
“There was no animosity there at all. … He wasn’t trying to hit him. I think it’s over, but I don’t think there was anything to begin with,” Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia said.
Crede and Paul Konerko also were hit during the series.
Chicago (22-9) has won 17 of its last 21 after taking two of three from the Royals over the weekend.
Garcia (4-1, 5.45 ERA) looks to become the team’s second five-game winner when he makes the start on Tuesday. The right-hander has won four straight decisions, and the White Sox are 5-1 in his six starts.
He is 12-3 with a 2.73 ERA against the Angels, including an 8-5 win on April 28 when he gave up three runs and four hits while striking out five in six innings.
Garcia will be opposed by Kevin Gregg (2-0, 1.02), who is making his second start of the season after three relief appearances. The right-hander allowed one run and three hits over seven innings in his first start, a 7-2 win at Detroit on Thursday.
He has pitched 9 1-3 innings of relief against the White Sox in his career, including 3 2-3 on April 28 when gave up four hits and no runs while striking out five.
The Angels (14-19) lost for the ninth time in 11 games on Monday, 5-1 in Toronto. They managed just two hits in a 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday and were four-hit by Roy Halladay on Monday.
“No disrespect to Halladay. He threw a great game, but we didn’t try to get good at-bats,” said Orlando Cabrera, who had an RBI single. “We didn’t fight pitches or anything. We basically stunk today.”