White Sox 7, Cubs 0

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CHICAGO (AP) – Michael Barrett punched A.J. Pierzynski in the jaw after a home-plate collision between the two catchers, and the Cubs-White Sox rivalry boiled over Saturday in a melee that led to four ejections.

After Pierzynski ran over his Cubs counterpart at the plate, Barrett landed a right cross and the benches emptied, a brawl that will bring fines and probably suspensions.

It’s a play that will certainly be talked about for years in a city with strong and divided passions for its two baseball teams, whose playing fields are just 8 miles apart.

Minutes after play resumed following a nearly 15-minute delay, Tadahito Iguchi hit a grand slam and then later added a two-run shot to back strong pitching by Freddy Garcia as the White Sox routed the frustrated Cubs 7-0.

Garcia (7-1) won his seventh straight decision, allowing eight hits in eight shutout innings. He was backed by three double plays against a Cubs team that has lost 17 of 21.

With the bases loaded, Pierzynski – who was in the middle of several wild plays in the postseason last year as the White Sox won their first World Series title in 88 years – took off from third on a fly ball to medium left by Brian Anderson and knocked Barrett over before the ball arrived.

Pierzynski slapped the plate after the collision as the ball got away from Barrett. The Cubs catcher got up, grabbed Pierzynski and punched him. The White Sox’s Scott Podsednik, who had been in the on-deck circle, wrestled Barrett to the ground.

Anderson then got into a fight with Cubs first baseman John Mabry.

Pierzynski, Barrett, Anderson and Mabry were all ejected.

“I asked Michael what happened and Michael said he (Pierzynski) hit him without the ball, but that’s baseball to me,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said during an in-game TV interview.

“I think Michael is frustrated. Everybody is frustrated and everything broke out.”

As Pierzynski went back to the dugout, he raised his hands in the air while most of the fans in a sellout crowd of 39,387 at U.S. Cellular Field roared. He slapped hands with his teammates and pointed to his jaw.

Considered an agitator by opponents, Pierzynski has long been one of the most unpopular players in the majors.

Umpires huddled to determine who should be ejected and Barrett was not initially tossed, even taking some warmup pitches.

“I think the fight is going to bring us together and (make us) tougher,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.

After order was restored, Podsednik drew a walk from Rich Hill (0-4) to load the bases again and Iguchi connected on his first career slam to make it 5-0. He homered again off Hill following a single by Podsednik in the fifth.

Last year in the ALCS, Pierzynski raced to first after a disputed strikeout and was called safe, setting up the White Sox’s winning rally against the Angels in Game 2.

Hill, still searching for his first major league win, gave up five hits and seven runs in four-plus innings, while issuing five walks.

Notes: Iguchi had his first multihomer game and his six RBIs were a career high. … In their 20 games before Saturday, the Cubs’ offensive woes were best summed up by this: They were batting just .146 with runners in scoring position. … The White Sox were still waiting to decide what roster move they would make when Jose Contreras is officially activated from the disabled list to start Sunday’s series finale. A relief pitcher is expected to be sent to the minors. Contreras, who has won 13 straight regular-season decisions over two seasons, was placed on the DL earlier this month with sciatica. … Garcia is 4-0 in four career starts against the Cubs.

AP-ES-05-20-06 1618EDT

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