Called third strike but not third out sparks controversy

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Angels were certain they were headed to extra


Game 2 Breakdown

Unsung Hero

Mark Buehrle. With the White Sox needing a win to avoid going down 0-2 in the series, Buehrle delivered a complete-game gem. The left-hander allowed only five hits, walked none and struck out four.


Home plate umpire Doug Eddings, with an assist from third base ump Ed Rapuano. A.J. Pierzynski struck out swinging to end the ninth, but wasn't ruled out because Eddings said the ball hit the dirt and Angels catcher Josh Paul didn't make a clean catch of Kelvim Escobar's pitch -- even though Paul clearly did. Eddings checked with Rapuano; the blown call stood, and Pierzynski was safe at first.

Turning Point

The bottom of the ninth. Instead of the inning being over, the controversial call gave the White Sox an extra out, and they took advantage of it. Pablo Ozuna ran for Pierzynski, stole second and scored the game-winning run on a Joe Crede double.

Important Stat

No offense. The Angels and White Sox have totaled only eight runs (four apiece) in the ALCS and are hitting a combined .203 (26-for-128) with three homers.

On Deck

Game 3 of the series moves to Anaheim on Friday. Two right-handers square off with John Lackey starting for the Angels, and Jon Garland getting the call for the White Sox. Lackey has been solid in two October starts, posting a 2.38 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. Garland (18-10, 3.50 during the regular season) has yet to pitch in the playoffs and will be going on 13-days' rest.

A.J. Pierzynski and the White Sox had other ideas -- and so did

the home plate umpire.

So while third-string catcher Josh Paul and his Los Angeles

teammates ran off the field Wednesday night, Pierzynski took off

for first base, triggering what is sure to go down as one of the

most disputed endings in postseason history.

Given a second chance when umpire Doug Eddings called strike

three -- but not the third out -- Chicago beat the Los Angeles Angels

2-1 on Joe Crede's two-out double in the ninth to even the

best-of-seven AL Championship Series at a game apiece.

"I didn't do anything," Pierzynski said. "I struck out."

Sure, but that's not what fans will remember for years to come.

In a sequence as bizarre as any imaginable on a baseball field,

Pierzynski swung at and missed a low pitch from Angels reliever

Kelvim Escobar, appearing to end the bottom of the ninth inning

with the score tied at 1.

The ball was gloved by Paul -- replays appeared to show he caught

it cleanly just before it would have hit the dirt. And behind him,

Eddings clearly raised his right arm and closed his fist, signaling

strike three.

"When he rings him up with a fist, he's out," Los Angeles

manager Mike Scioscia said.

Being a catcher -- Scioscia was one, too -- Pierzynski knew to

play it all the way through, just in case. He twirled around and

hustled to first.

"I thought for sure the ball hit the ground. I watched the

replay 50 times and I still don't know. The third strike is in the

dirt, you run," Pierzynski said. "I didn't hear him say out, Josh

didn't tag me."

In fact, Eddings was silent.

"I did not say, 'No catch,"' said Eddings, a major league

umpire since 1999 who is working his third postseason assignment.

"I'm watching Josh Paul, seeing what he's going to do."

After the game, Eddings watched several replays and stood by his


"We saw it on a couple different angles, the ball changes

directions," Eddings said. "I had questions. I didn't have him

catching the ball."

Positive the inning was over, Paul rolled the ball out to the

mound with the Angels already coming off the field, so Pierzynski

was easily safe.

"Customarily, if the ball is in the dirt, say if we block a

ball for strike three, they usually say, 'No catch, no catch, no

catch.' And I didn't hear any of that," Paul said. "That's why I

was headed back to the dugout."

Then everybody stopped, including the umpires. When they let

Pierzynski stay at first, Scioscia came out of the dugout to argue.

The umpires huddled and upheld the call after a delay of about

four minutes. Last year's postseason was marked by umpires

consulting and drawing praise for getting key calls correct -- even

if it meant overturning the original ruling.

When it looked as if play was about to begin again, Scioscia

came out again and Eddings conferred with third-base umpire Ed


Again the call stood, and the White Sox capitalized.

Pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna quickly stole second, and Crede lined

an 0-2 pitch into the left-field corner for a game-winning double.

Mark Buehrle pitched a five-hitter for the first complete game

of this postseason, and the White Sox bounced back from a tight

loss in the opener.

"Do we feel lucky? No," Pierzynski said. "Did they feel lucky

when they won last night?"

Probably not, but they certainly felt robbed this time. Scioscia

and several Angels lingered in the dugout, staring in disbelief at

what they had seen.

Darin Erstad
Darin Erstad protests his displeasure with the controversial call. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Until now, the most famous play involving a dropped third strike

came in Game 4 of the 1941 World Series. Brooklyn catcher Mickey

Owen let strike three get past him, and New York's Tommy Henrich

reached first safely instead of making the final out.

The Yankees rallied for a 7-4 victory and won the Series the

next day.

This series shifts to Anaheim for Game 3 on Friday. The Angels

were planning to finally get some sleep -- but that might be

difficult after losing this way.

Los Angeles arrived at its hotel in Chicago around 6:30 a.m.

Tuesday after crisscrossing the country while flying overnight two

days in a row.

In fact, the Angels plan to bypass the conventional off-day

workout Thursday in their own ballpark, choosing instead to let

their players rest.

Smooth as ever, Buehrle cruised through the ninth on eight

pitches, jogging over to catch Garret Anderson's inning-ending

popup himself and casually tossing the ball into the stands

Robb Quinlan homered and saved a run with a sparkling defensive

play for the Angels.

Crede was doubled off second on Juan Uribe's liner to left to

end the seventh, bringing manager Ozzie Guillen charging out of the

dugout to argue unsuccessfully.

With a runner on third in the eighth, Scott Podsednik caught

Orlando Cabrera's drive at the left-field wall to end the inning.

Brendan Donnelly relieved Angels starter Jarrod Washburn with

the bases loaded in the fifth and fanned Jermaine Dye on three

pitches to thwart a threat.

Washburn, coming off a throat infection and fever, allowed only

an unearned run and four hits, keeping his team close.

Working quickly as always, Buehrle faced the minimum until

Cabrera's one-out double in the fourth. The AL starter in this

year's All-Star game, he was 10-2 with a 2.48 ERA at home and beat

Boston in Game 2 of the division series.

Washburn looked shaky at the start, inexplicably throwing away

Podsednik's leadoff comebacker for a two-base error.

Tadahito Iguchi's sacrifice drew a roar from the crowd of 41,013

-- Chicago fans are gaga for Guillen's small-ball style. Plus,

failed bunt attempts cost the White Sox in Game 1.

Dye's RBI groundout gave Chicago its first lead of the series.

Then came a wild play in the second. Aaron Rowand doubled into

the right-field corner and turned for third when a hobbling

Vladimir Guerrero bobbled the ball for an error.

Rowand slid safely into third as Guerrero's long throw skidded

through the infield. With the crowd screaming, third-base coach

Joey Cora leaned down to holler at Rowand, wave him to his feet and

send him home.

But Quinlan made an outstanding play, dashing up the left-field

line to chase down the ball with a slide. He popped to his feet and

fired to the plate, just in time for catcher Jose Molina to reach

and tag Rowand as he dived headfirst.

Quinlan, starting at third to provide another right-handed bat

against Buehrle, connected in the fifth for his first career

postseason homer, tying the score at 1.

Game notes

SS Uribe made a fine play to rob Guerrero of a first-inning

hit for the second consecutive night. ... Los Angeles' Bengie

Molina, serving as the DH to give him a break from catching, was

hit by a pitch in the knee.