A.J. Pierzynski and Alex Rios are fond of their time with the Chicago White Sox, but each are more than happy to be a part of a playoff race with the Texas Rangers.
They'll make their first visits to U.S. Cellular Field since joining the AL West-leading Rangers, who seek a club record-tying ninth straight road win while looking to snap Chicago's six-game winning streak Friday night.
Pierzynski won a World Series in 2005 in his first season with the White Sox and hit a career-best 27 homers in 2012 before signing a one-year, $7.5 million deal with Texas in the offseason.
"I will be glad to get it over with, especially Friday," Pierzynski told the team's official website. "It will be weird going into the visitor's clubhouse, but I'm looking forward to going to the city. Hopefully we'll go in there and play well."
Rios has made a quick, seamless transition as Texas claimed him off waivers and completed a trade with Chicago on Aug. 9. He arrived less than a week after Nelson Cruz, the team's leader with 27 homers, played his final game of the regular season after receiving a 50-game suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The Rangers (74-53), who lead Oakland by 2 1/2 games atop the division, have gone 12-3 without the power-hitting Cruz while taking more of a small-ball approach. Rios has hit safely in nine of his 11 games with Texas, which is averaging 6.3 runs since Cruz's suspension.
"That's how you can become consistent,'' manager Ron Washington said. "If guys can just keep going up there, putting the ball in play and finding holes and getting base hits and we can keep going first to third, that's just playing right into the game we want to play anyway.''
Elvis Andrus' ninth-inning sacrifice fly gave the Rangers a 5-4 win over Houston on Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep. They've outscored their opponents 43-18 while winning four of five.
"Missing Nellie obviously hurts, but our lineup's clicking right now,'' said Ian Kinsler, who has consecutive multihit games.
The Rangers, whose franchise-record road run was established July 22-Aug. 3, 1977, face a Chicago team riding a season-high win streak of its own. The last-place White Sox (52-74) completed a three-game sweep of Kansas City, winning 4-3 in 12 innings Thursday as Conor Gillaspie hit a tiebreaking homer.
They now turn to Chris Sale to avoid their sixth loss in seven home games.
Sale (9-11, 2.78 ERA) has a 1.93 ERA while winning his last three starts after giving up three runs and striking out eight in seven innings of Saturday's 8-5 win over Minnesota. He went 1-9 over his previous 11 outings despite posting a 3.23 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 78 innings during that stretch.
"He's got a pretty high standard of how good he is,'' manager Robin Ventura said. ''You've seen him better than that, but he's been better and lost, too."
Sale, who ranks last in the majors with a 2.94 run-support average, is 3-0 with a 3.48 ERA in three lifetime starts versus the Rangers and allowed two runs in seven innings of a 5-2 win at Texas on May 1.
The left-hander will be opposed by Martin Perez, who has won three straight starts and has a 2.12 ERA over his last four. Perez (6-3, 3.48) outpitched Felix Hernandez on Saturday and allowed three runs in seven innings of a 17-5 victory over Seattle.
"I have to keep working," Perez told the team's official website. "I don't have to change my mentality because we beat the Mariners and Felix Hernandez. I'm learning from every outing."
The lefty has never faced the White Sox, who may be without Paul Konerko after he was scratched from Thursday's lineup due to feeling light-headed.
- Sports & Recreation