As the White Sox fell into a tie for first place with the Twins in the American League Central, A.J. Pierzynski and Cliff Lee opened some verbal wounds Monday night.
An apparent disagreement evolved into a staring match after Lee dominated the Sox in Cleveland's 5-0 victory for his 20th triumph.
Pierzynski and Lee agreed that the tension started after Pierzynski popped up to short on a 3-2 pitch in the fourth inning.
"I rounded first, and he said something and I looked at him like, 'What?' " Pierzynski said after the Sox were blanked for the 10th time as Lee (20-2) became Cleveland's first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1974.
"I didn't say anything. I was mad because I missed a 3-2 pitch and popped up. It wasn't meant anything toward him. You miss a pitch, you pop up against a guy that good, you can't miss pitches to hit. Oh, well."
Pierzynski added that Lee said something to him after retiring him on a grounder in the seventh.
After Lee induced Carlos Quentin to hit into a game-ending double play, he hugged catcher Kelly Shoppach, and then stared in the direction of Pierzynski in the Sox's dugout.
Lee, who retired 21 consecutive batters after allowing consecutive singles to start the game, expressed a different version of the exchange.
"He slammed his bat down and stared me down," Lee told reporters. "I stared back. He was chirping in the dugout. It gave me a little extra energy. Actually, I appreciate him doing that."
The staring match was the only suspense as Lee performed a pitching clinic in handing the Sox their fourth loss in the last five games.
"[Lee] is supremely confident, which makes you better," Pierzynski said in comparing this year's Lee to last year's version, which went just 5-8. "And he's not missing spots. He made a couple mistakes, but that was it. He's just confident and he's won 20 games, so he's pretty darn good."
Clayton Richard (2-3) regressed from the start by falling behind on the count.
He contributed to his fall by committing a throwing error that led to a run in the third, his third error of the season.
"As a pitcher what you want to do is get ahead of hitters and sometimes make a quality pitch, [and] in a pressure situation," said Richard, who was pulled after allowing a leadoff walk in the fifth. "I was 0-for-3 as far as that goes."
The Sox won't need a fifth starter until Sept. 9 against Toronto, unless they elect to give Javier Vazquez an extra day of rest.
"[Richard] was lucky they only scored a few runs," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "They had a chance to score a lot of runs and they didn't. He didn't bring anything."
Ken Griffey Jr. was scratched from the Sox's lineup because of lower back stiffness. Nick Swisher, Griffey's replacement, is hitless in his last 17 at-bats.
The Sox are expected to promote third baseman Josh Fields and infielder Chris Getz from Triple-A Charlotte before Tuesday's game.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun