Pierzynski sparks rally, discussion
Veteran catcher forced ruling by running to first
CHICAGO -- White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski wasn't immediately sure what the call was at the conclusion of his instantly famous at-bat in the ninth inning against the Angels, but he sure knew what it wasn't.
"I didn't hear [home plate umpire Doug Eddings] say anything," Pierzynski said. "I didn't hear him say 'out' or 'safe', so to me that means run. I know I didn't foul tip it, and I shouldn't have swung at it. It was ball four."
It was not ball four. It was a swinging strike three. But the heads-up play by Pierzynski with two outs and the score tied, 1-1, gave life to the White Sox and eventually led to 2-1 victory in the final frame. Pablo Ozuna pinch-ran for Pierzynski and stole second base. Ozuna scored the game-winner when Joe Crede hit a double to left field to send the White Sox to the West Coast with the American League Championship Series tied at one victory apiece.
"I thought I heard it bounce. I don't know," Pierzynski said. "I still don't know. I was taking a chance of him throwing it down the line or me getting on base or something. It worked out."
That's an understatement. Angels reliever Kelvim Escobar was on a roll in the final inning. He forced Carl Everett into a groundout at first base and then struck out Aaron Rowand swinging for the second out.
He fell behind to Pierzynski but recovered to strike him out swinging on a low pitch on a 3-2 count. Pierzynski took one step toward the dugout then spun around and sprinted toward first base. Angels catcher Josh Paul did not tag him.
"I didn't hear him call me out so I ran," Pierzynski said.
It was more than good hustle. It was great hustle.
After a conference of umpires, Pierzynski was called safe because the ball was ruled as being trapped. The veteran was allowed to stay at first base, but he wouldn't stay there long. A few minutes later, Pierzynski was on the field again, this time celebrating a victory with his teammates.
"The only thing I see, I just put my head down to the right and he was running to the base," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "All of a sudden, I see A.J. running and I'm confused, I don't know what's going on. When someone said the ball hit the dirt, then I saw him running, and that's it."
|The Official Rules|
A batter is out when (a) his fair or foul fly ball (other than a foul tip) is legally caught by a fielder; (b) a third strike is legally caught by the catcher; "legally caught" means in the catcher's glove before the ball touches the ground.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia, a former catcher, was not pleased with the disputed call.
"It was a swing, our catcher caught it, Doug Eddings called him out, and somewhere along the line, because the guy ran to first base, he altered the call," Scioscia said. "He called him out, and that's what is disappointing. When an umpire calls a guy out and you're the catcher, and I've caught my share of them, he's out. He didn't call swing, he ran him up with his fist and said, 'You're out.'"
Eddings, along with umpires Rich Reiker and Jerry Crawford addressed the media after the game. Eddings stood by his call.
"Yes, I do," he said. "We saw a couple different angles, and if you watch it, the ball changes direction, so I don't see how you guys can say it's clearly a caught ball."
The Angels had a chance to make the call not matter. Escobar had an 0-2 count on Crede, the next batter, before the third baseman connected on the base hit.
Game over. White Sox win.
"Crede deserves the credit. He had to get the hit to win it. I struck out," Pierzynski said. "I didn't do anything. The only thing I did was run. Hopefully, it will get us going on Friday."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.