CHICAGO – With three outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Joe Crede doubled home a pinch runner for a hitter who previously struck out and was called out (or so it appeared) by the home plate umpire, giving the Chicago White Sox a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels to tie the American League Championship Series at one game apiece.
If the above paragraph makes any sense at all, then you must be a major league umpire.
Apparently, those umps run tighter than the mob. Not only did home plate umpire Doug Eddings stick to his call and his non-call against overwhelming evidence, all his buddies in blue backed him up.
None of the other five umpires on the field would admit they saw Eddings incorrectly rule that the ball hit the dirt after A.J. Pierzynski swung and missed for strike three. And none agreed that the motion Eddings made – that looked about as much "out" as is imaginable – looks like an out signal.
Heck, afterward at a small postgame press conference, they darn near patted him on the back for the good work.
"At this point I would say, at best, it's inconclusive," umpire supervisor Rich Reiker said about whether Angels catcher Josh Paul actually caught the swinging third strike.
Reiker claimed they had some "technology" in the "truck" that showed "there was definitely a change of direction" with the ball when it got to Paul's glove. However, the evidence wasn't enough for Reiker to say it was anything more than "inconclusive."
This didn't seem possible on the Fox replays. So apparently Fox needs to get one of those umpire trucks.
"I don't see how you guys can say it's clearly a caught ball," Eddings said.
Actually, it was pretty easy, but let's ask this one last time before we get to the "not out" sign. Doug, you clearly saw him drop the ball?
"I had a question," he said. "That's why if you watched (pause) – sometimes you go off reactions on what you're doing. There's a lot of times you can hear two sounds. I didn't have him catching the ball."
It is a little known fact that Eddings moonlights as the writer of furniture assembly manuals.
As for the "out" sign that turned out to be a "not out" sign:
"My interpretation is that's my strike-three mechanic, when it's a swinging strike," Eddings offered. "If you watch, that's what I do the whole entire game."
After that, all the umps smiled some more. If Eddings isn't in line for a raise, he at least is getting a gold star in his folder.
According to the umps, this was interpretative genius.
No one from California was buying it.
"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," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He called him out.
"When an umpire calls a guy out … he's out."
You would think so.
It was certainly a bizarre way to win or lose a game. Pretty much everyone agreed on that.
It is worthwhile to point out that Crede deserves credit for his clutch hit off the unhittable Kelvim Escobar to drive in pinch runner Pablo Ozuna, no matter how many outs there were. And no one should forget that Mark Buehrle threw nine incredible innings of five-hit ball to keep the game tied at 1-1. The White Sox have nothing to apologize about for being opportunistic.
"Don't forget what we did," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Of course, Guillen wasn't too proud to admit this was bizarre.
"I always say, I'd rather be lucky than be good,' " he smiled.
So what was Guillen's view of the big play?
"All of a sudden I see A.J. running and I'm confused," Guillen said. "I don't know what's going on."
If this managing thing doesn't work out, it's good to know Ozzie has a place behind the plate.
Depending on how this series plays out, this call either will go down as one of the worst calls of all time and cursed forever in Orange County, or it'll be just a humorous historical footnote on fallibility.
"It's tough," Scioscia said before spinning it forward. "The bottom line is we didn't play well enough to absorb something like that and we have to play at a higher level."
For the White Sox, getting a break was much appreciated in this series.
They were one Angels run away from wasting another great effort from their starting pitcher and somehow falling behind 2-0 even though L.A. opened the series with one starter with shaken confidence (Paul Byrd) and one with strep throat (Jarrod Washburn).
It would have been an unthinkable start to the series. Now Chicago goes to California with plenty of hope. Game 3 is Friday in Anaheim.
"We have some momentum," Pierzynski said. "This is two really good teams battling each other and every pitch counts."
Even the ones after the third out.
- Doug Eddings