ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tyler Flowers’ teammates showered him with support on Thursday night at the conclusion of his first official meeting with his predecessor.
It didn’t hurt matters that the White Sox new catcher provided all the offense and helped the pitching staff navigate its way through a 3-1 victory over the Texas Rangers in front of 31,199.
But the fact that the performance, which included a go-ahead three-run homer, took place with ex-Sox catcher and fan-favorite A.J. Pierzynski in attendance only strengthened their pride. Hector Santiago (1-1) won his first start of the season and Addison Reed pitched around two ninth-inning walks as the White Sox secured their first series victory since April 5-7.
“I feel like for 'Flow' that was huge because you are replacing A.J. and especially the year he had last year,” Santiago said. “It was tough to come in there and replace him. But with Flow back there, he mixes it up well back there. He helps the pitcher instead of just getting after guys. I feel like he helps us out a lot.”
Though he has struggled, the evidence backs Santiago’s assertion that Flowers comes through in a big way when he does produce.
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Flowers stepped to the plate with his team down a run and two outs in the sixth inning after singles by Conor Gillaspie and Alexi Ramirez, who went 2-for-4. Flowers then hammered a first-pitch curveball from Justin Grimm (2-1) 397 feet to give the White Sox a 3-1 lead.
“He keeps grinding and having tough at bats,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That’s what he needs to do. It’s not easy, but he has to stay positive and get through it. Tonight he did it. That was a big hit for us.”
Prior to the homer, the White Sox were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded six base runners, all in the first three innings.
Flowers has struck out 26 times in 22 games and has a .650 OPS. But all four of his homers have put the White Sox ahead and the team has won all four games in which he has homered.
“He’s got a lot of big hits for us and he’s only going to get better,” designated hitter Adam Dunn said. “He’s got so much talent. I think a lot of times he gets in his own way. … Once everything settles down and he gets into a real good routine, he’ll be fine. He’s a good player.”
It couldn’t have been easy for Flowers to come into this series with Pierzynski batting more than 100 points higher than he has. He has also has answered numerous questions about replacing Pierzynski after he produced a career-high 27 homers and 77 RBIs in his final season. The move to let Pierzynski leave via free agency also hasn’t been popular with many White Sox fans and Flowers is aware.
But his ability to produce has lent Flowers confidence.
“It’s been a battle at the plate for me all year and I’m just trying to grind it out every time,” Flowers said. “Basically the gist of it is swing at good pitches, swing at strikes and lay off the balls. It seems like evidently in those situations I’ve been getting some decent pitches to hit and taking advantage of them.”
Santiago didn’t give the Rangers many good pitches to hit in replacing Jake Peavy, who missed the game with back spasms. The left-hander mixed a five-pitch assortment and only made one mistake to Adrian Beltre, who hit a second-inning solo homer.
Santiago limited Texas to a run and two hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out six, walked two and hit a batter.
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From there the White Sox bullpen took over and pitched in and out of trouble.
Matt Lindstrom walked Lance Berkman to load the bases in the sixth but got Beltre to ground into a double play.
Beltre later struck out with two aboard in the eighth against Jesse Crain.
As for Pierzysnki, he finished his first full game against the Sox 0-for-4. That included a fly out with the tying man on against Matt Thornton in the seventh and he struck out in the ninth against Reed with one on.
Asked if the performance or homer had extra meaning because of Pierzynski’s presence, Flowers said he’s mostly relieved.
“I didn’t really think about it,” Flowers said. “It was kind of awkward coming home and seeing (Pierzynski) standing there just like I thought it was awkward when he came up in the box yesterday. I’m sure he thought it was awkward when he had to face Thornton. I’m glad we got it over with though. He’s got his at-bats against us, we’ve gotten him out, we’ve hit him. All that kind of stuff. It seems like all the drama should be over now when they come to our place.”