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Called third strike but not third out sparks controversy

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

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
call.

"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
Rapuano.

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 ErstadDarin 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.