Romero skipped a pitch in the dirt to Pierzynski leading off the eighth inning -- not a terrible pitch, mind you, because AJ had been hacking at similar offerings all night. But late in the game with his team trailing 4-0, Pierzynski resisted the urge to swing. When the ball hit the ground near his feet, he began hopping as if an anvil had landed on his toe. But in fact, nothing had landed on his toe. Replays were clear. He had not been hit.
Nonetheless, Pierzynski turned and ran toward first base. Home plate umpire Tim McClelland failed to stop him. It's not the first time AJ has deked an ump, and it likely won't be the last. Jays manager Cito Gaston argued and McClelland's crew huddled, but no one overruled the original call — which, again, appeared to have been made by Pierzynski. Thus the Sox had their third base-runner of the game.
Romero found himself pitching from the stretch, and he soon fell behind Alex Rios, 2-1. That's when he made his only real mistake of the night. Romero placed a changeup on a tee and Rios deposited the pitch over the left field wall, ending the no-hit bid. The next three Chicago batters were retired on groundouts, then Romero yielded to Kevin Gregg in the ninth.
I went back and watched, and even the White Sox broadcasters knew he was cheating, which led to this amusing exchange as Pierzynski headed toward first base while making his case:
Steve Stone: And McClelland's looking at him, saying "Just go to first, I believe you. I know you wouldn't lie to me."
Hawk Harrelson (watching replay): It hit something, I know that.
Stone: Well, now the question is, McClelland's going to ask all the umpires, "Did you see it?" Let's watch it again.
Stone: It hit McClelland.
Harrelson: It hit McClelland [chuckling].
Stone: But A.J. did a nice job of hopping. I think he's hopping on the wrong foot, though. You gotta hop on the foot that, you're trying to convince the umpire you got hit. But it seems to have worked.
Harrelson: He's the best.
Then, Alex Rios. A couple of off-speed pitches, a low fastball, then a hanging something and boom goes the dynamite (and the no-hitter).
I don't want to get into the awesome logistics that would be involved here ... but, ethically speaking, isn't there an argument to be made for punishing Pierzynski? He cheated.
In soccer, don't officials have the power to levy discipline against players who feign injury?
In the aftermath, Steve Stone said, "It's just one of those things." As if cheating (and getting away with it) is like an earthquake, or a tornado that formed quickly and touched down before anyone could sound a warning.
No. It's not just one of those things. It's cheating, and in some quarters there are rules against such things.
p.s. McClelland, again, missing something right in front of his nose. I hope someone's keeping track.