Fans at Angel Stadium have a long memory when it comes to A.J. Pierzynski. Then again, so do fans just about everywhere when it comes to one of baseball’s least popular players.
His ninth-inning heroics for the Texas Rangers on Monday night aren’t going to help with the fence-mending process.
Pierzynski swatted a solo homer with two outs in the ninth inning to help complete the Rangers’ comeback from a three-run deficit and lift them to a 7-6 victory over Anaheim.
The Rangers trailed 6-3 after six innings, with each run charged to starter Derek Holland, but finally put together a rally on a night when they had 15 hits.
The biggest was their last by Pierzynski, who cheered his fourth homer of the season as he rounded the bases and boos rooted in the 2005 postseason rained down upon him.
“It kind of makes me laugh a little bit because 2005 was — what? — eight years ago, and they still remember,” said Pierzynski, whose first big-league game was here in 1998.
“I’ve had family and friends in the stands, and they’ve asked people why they boo me and they don’t even know. They just do it because other people do it. That’s cool.”
Mitch Moreland went 3 for 4 with an RBI double in the sixth, Elvis Andrus went 3 for 5 and David Murphy went 2 for 3 with two runs scored.
Local boy Tanner Scheppers worked two scoreless innings in front of family and friends to earn the victory, and Joe Nathan worked around a leadoff single by Peter Bourjos in the ninth by retiring Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo.
But the Rangers had work to do after the Angels posted their second three-run inning of the game against Holland in the sixth.
The Angels touched the left-hander for three runs the fourth, which started with a leadoff walk to Trumbo and a single by Josh Hamilton that just snuck through the infield.
Howie Kendrick cleared the bases with a double and scored two batters later on a sacrifice fly by Chris Iannetta. He would deliver the hit that knocked out Holland three innings later, a two-out RBI double to left for a 4-3 lead in the sixth.
Luis Jimenez, the No. 9 hitter, followed with a two-run single.
But the Angels’ bullpen quickly gave up the lead, as the Rangers scored three times in the seventh. Elvis Andrus started with a single off starter Joe Blanton, the Rangers’ 12th against him, and Lance Berkman followed with a bloop single off Michael Roth.
Dane De La Rosa entered, and issued a walk to Adrian Beltre, an RBI single to Pierzynski and a fielder’s choice by Nelson Cruz to make it 6-5. The third Angels reliever of the inning, Scott Downs, bobbled a chopper by pinch-hitter Jeff Baker as Beltre snuck home to tie the game.
“We had to scratch some runs together in the seventh inning to get back in the ballgame,” manager Ron Washington said. “... In the end it just worked out for us.”
The Rangers had seven hits through the first three innings against Blanton, but only a 2-0 lead. Holland couldn’t keep it, though initially he survived rocky innings in the second and third.
He finished with seven strikeouts, but he also walked four in his fifth start of the season. Hamilton was 3 for 3 against Holland and 4 for 4 overall.
“I thought maybe he’d be able to take it a little deeper,” Washington said. “But he walked a guy, and then they started fighting for their at-bats.”
Scheppers, though, cooled off the Angels in the seventh and eighth to give the Rangers a chance against Ernesto Frieri. Beltre just missed a solo homer for the second out, but Pierzynski didn’t miss the next pitch.
Much to the chagrin of the Angels and their grudge-holding fans.
“That’s what A.J. is all about; he’s a very exciting player,” Washington said. “I love him. I know there’s a lot of people that hate him, but I love him.”
And Pierzynski, who finished 2 for 5, has a fondness for Angel Stadium.
“This will always be a special place for me,” he said. “And I think the fans are awesome. They’re passionate. They’re energetic. Any time the Rally Monkey comes out, it’s loud. It’s a cool place.”