A.J. Pierzynski may have been the first player in minor league baseball history to actually resent his employers for promoting him.
The Buzz catcher was lighting up the scoreboard like General Electric while playing for New Britain, the Minnesota Twins AA affiliate. His batting average was steadily flirting with .300 while he also backstopped home plate better than any man in his league.Naturally, the Twins bumped him up a notch to Salt Lake and the AAA Buzz, and that's where he's been for the past month.
That's also when Pierzynski lost it. Before Thursday night's game, the slumping slugger was batting at a clip of only .145 with a paltry four RBI.
"I've never been in a slump like that," said Pierzynski. "I just wasn't seeing the ball well. I struggled against the older players."
Buzz manager Phil Roof kept penciling Pierzynski into the lineup though, knowing full well, or at least he hoped, that one day his prize pupil would snap out of the funk.
Thursday was that night.
The Buzz won their third straight game by knocking the Albuquerque Duke pitching around the park like a pinata, piling up 10 hits for the 8-2 victory.
Pierzynski swung the stick hardest of all.
Led by his five RBI, which more than doubled his season total, the Buzz blew open a tight 3-2 game and rolled to the easy win. Pierzynski started the scoring off with a 2-run bomb in the second and ended it all with a 3-run blast in the eighth, putting to bed any thoughts of a Duke comeback.
On the night, Pierzynski was 4-for-4.
"I've never hit two home runs in a game," said Pierzynski. "You might never see that again."
Of course Roof knew, or at least he claims he knew, that Pierzynski had the pop in his bat the whole time. It was just a matter of getting reacquainted with swinging the bat.
"R.J. has a nice, flat swing, so that wasn't the problem. We made a few adjustments with him, but it was really just a matter of him staying patient and not chasing any bad pitches and getting in a hole," said Roof. "He was patient, got the pitches he wanted and showed what he can do with them. He wasn't cheated on any of the home runs. They went a long way."
Both shots came on 2-0 fastballs.
Chad Rupp and Jamie Ogden both added solo homers of their own, proving the power surge wasn't just a fluke.
Albuquerque had cut the lead to 3-2 after the fourth, but five unanswered Buzz runs stopped that rally right in its tracks.
"We came out swinging tonight," said Roof. "It takes character to put a team away like we did tonight. We didn't quit once we got ahead; we buried them."
Salt Lake, now 50-45, will look for a four-game sweep of the Dukes beginning tonight at 7.