Perhaps lost amid the resurgence of Adam Dunn, the continued and consistent excellence of Paul Konerko, the emergence of Chris Sale as one of the best young pitchers in the game, and even the success of first-year manager Robin Ventura, A.J. Pierzynski has put together an exceptional first half.
Over the past 10 seasons (including this one), the White Sox backstop has started more games at catcher than anyone else in the Majors; still, here he is in his age-35 season, three home runs away from tying his career high, putting up a 128 OPS+ while catching the fourth-most innings in the Majors.
In the modern era, only eight catchers in their age-35 season or older have ever qualified for the batting title and finished the year with an OPS+ of at least 120. Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett owns the highest mark, with a 158 OPS+ in his age-36 season in 1937. More recently, Jorge Posada posted a 153 in his age-35 season in 2007. And before Pierzynski, another White Sox catcher -- Carlton Fisk -- had twin 134 OPS+ campaigns: in his age-35 and age-42 seasons.
Pierzynski hit his 15th home run of the season Tuesday night. The 15 -- all as a catcher -- through 80 team games are already the second most in White Sox history. In 1985, Carlton Fisk had 21.
The White Sox defeated the Rangers, 19-2.
The 19 runs were the most for the White Sox since beating the Cardinals, 20-6, on June 20, 2006. The South Siders racked up 21 hits against Texas, tying a season high for the club (they had 21 on June 27). They are the only team in 2012 to have a pair of 21-hit games. The White Sox had 10 extra-base hits in the win -- the most for the club since totaling 11 on Aug. 16, 2011.
The 19 runs were the second most for any club this season. The Mariners scored 21 on May 30. The Rangers were on the losing side in both games. It is the third time in franchise history the Rangers have had multiple games of 19 or more runs allowed in a season. They also had two in 1999 and 2008.
The differential of 17 runs was the largest for the White Sox since they blanked the Indians, 17-0, on July 5, 1987.
The Brewers defeated the Marlins, 13-12, in 10 innings, with the game concluding on Aramis Ramirez's two-run home run.
Ramirez now has 12 career walk-off hits and six career walk-off home runs. The 12 game-ending hits are tied for the sixth most among active players, with David Ortiz (18) the leader.
The Marlins lost despite hitting five home runs as part of an attack that saw them finish with nine extra-base hits. Before Tuesday, the club had never lost a game in which it hit five home runs. The Marlins are the second team to do it this season, with the Rockies having done it twice.
Ryan Braun hit his NL-leading 23rd home run. Those 23 through 80 team games tie Braun with Jeromy Burnitz (23 in 1999) for the fourth most in franchise history. Prince Fielder had 27 in 2007, Carlos Lee had 25 in '06 and Greg Vaughn had 24 in 1996.
Jordan Zimmermann (6 IP, 2 runs) improved to 5-6 as the Nationals defeated the Giants, 9-3. Zimmermann has 10 outings this season in which he has finished with at least six innings and no more than two runs allowed, tying him with teammate Stephen Strasburg and many others for the fifth most in the Majors. Overall, Nationals pitchers have 39 of these starts this season, tied with the Marlins for the second most in the Majors. The Athletics lead with 47.
1962-2012: Most Hits Through 81 Team Games, Switch-Hitters
Josh Willingham hit his 18th home run and Trevor Plouffe hit his 19th of the season, helping the Twins to an 8-6 win over the Tigers. This marks the fourth time in franchise history a pair (or trio) of players have had at least 18 homers through 80 team games. In 1959, Harmon Killebrew had 28 home runs, Bob Allison had 21 and Jim Lemon had 20; in 1964, Killebrew had 29, Allison had 21, and Tony Oliva had 18; and in 1986, Kent Hrbek had 19 and Gary Gaetti had 18.
Andrew McCutchen hit one of three Pirates home runs in a 3-for-4, two-run, two-RBI night, and the Pirates defeated the Astros, 8-7.
In his past 47 games, McCutchen is batting .385 and slugging .709 with 14 home runs and 43 RBIs. McCutchen currently leads the NL in batting, is fourth in on-base percentage, second in slugging and second in OPS.
The Pirates have homered in 11 consecutive games, the team's longest streak since homering in 13 straight in 1994.
The Pirates won the game on Drew Sutton's solo homer in the bottom of the ninth. The club has five walk-off hits this season -- tied with the Marlins for the most in the Majors.
The Pirates 44 wins at the 80-game mark are the most for the club since having 44 victories in 1992.
Chipper Jones -- at the age of 40 years and 70 days -- went 5-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs as the Braves defeated the Cubs, 10-3.
Jones is the oldest player with a five-hit game since Craig Biggio (41 years 196 days) went 5-for-6 on June 28, 2007. Dating back to 1918, Jones is the 13th player to have a five-hit game after his 40th birthday. The others, beside Jones and Biggio: Ty Cobb, Johnny Cooney, Stan Musial, Pete Rose (with two), Davey Lopes, Bob Boone, Fisk and Paul Molitor (three).
With 1,594 career RBIs, Jones is now one behind Mike Schmidt for the second most ever for a player with more than half of his games at third. George Brett -- the leader -- is just one ahead of Schmidt.
With the two doubles, Jones now has 1,034 career extra-base hits. Among switch-hitters, only Eddie Murray (1,099) and Pete Rose (1,041) have more.
The Rockies' Jeff Francis allowed two runs on five hits in five innings and picked up the win as Colorado defeated St. Louis, 3-2. Outside of Francis -- who also recorded a win on June 29 -- the last Rockies starter to notch a victory was Christian Friedrich on June 4.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.