Calls don't fall Angels' way

Calls don't fall Angels' way

ANAHEIM -- When the umpires took the field at Angel Stadium on Saturday for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, they were greeted with a chorus of pro-Angels boos.

This wasn't a surprise given Doug Eddings' now-famous disputed ruling that led to a White Sox win in Game 2.

What was surprising, however, was that Angels fans would have three more umpire calls to dispute in Game 4.

The first call, actually a non-call, came in the top of the first inning after Angels starter Ervin Santana walked Scott Podsednik, hit Tadahito Iguchi, and gave up a flyout to Jermaine Dye that left runners on second and third with one out.

Santana had two strikes on White Sox slugger Paul Konerko, who had torched the Angels with a first-inning two-run home run in Chicago's 5-2 victory in Game 3, and Konerko check-swung at what would have been the third strike.

Home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa didn't ring Konerko up, so catcher Bengie Molina appealed to first-base umpire Ed Rapuano. Rapuano ruled Konerko didn't swing, and the Chicago first baseman blasted the next pitch over the wall in left center-field to once again give the White Sox a 3-0 lead.

Televised replays appeared to show that the bat cleared at least 50 percent of the plate, making it very close, but the call went against the Angels once again. And it was only the beginning.

"We felt that Ervin was going to have the ability to make some pitches, and he came within an eyelash of making it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You could toss a coin whether Paul went around on that 2-and-2 pitch."

The second disputed call came in the bottom of the second inning, with the White Sox up, 3-1, following a one-out RBI single by Molina. The home crowd was frenzied as Steve Finley came to the plate with Molina on first and Casey Kotchman on third.

"Momentum seemed to be swinging in our direction," Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. "It could have been a big moment in the game for us."

 The Official Rules
6.08
The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when -- (c) The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference. If catcher's interference is called with a play in progress the umpire will allow the play to continue because the manager may elect to take the play. If the batter runner missed first base, or a runner misses his next base, he shall be considered as having reached the base, as stated in Note of Rule 7.04

Finley grounded the ball to second base and Iguchi turned a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. But while Finley was running toward first, he turned back to Kulpa and yelled in protest while waving his arm, which all but ensured that he'd be thrown out at first.

Replays showed that catcher A.J. Pierzynski's glove had come in contact with Finley's bat as he swung, meaning Finley should have been awarded first base on catcher's interference, loading the bases.

Finley and Scioscia argued on the field to no avail. Scioscia, after all, was the last player to reach base on a catcher's interference call in a playoff game when, while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he reached first in the fourth inning of Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

"Yeah, I felt it, but I couldn't really hear it," Pierzynski said. "I mean, the only two people that knew it hit me was me and Steve. You know, we got a break. I mean, he hit it right at the guy and they turned a double play. It was a lucky break, what can you say?"

In the top of the fifth, the umpires determined another run-scoring situation that went against the Angels.

Podsednik led off with a walk against Santana before Iguchi flied out to center field. The Angels brought in reliever Scot Shields, and during the ensuing at-bat by Dye, Shields attempted a pickoff throw as Podsednik strayed a bit toward second base, then dove back to first.

First baseman Darin Erstad's glove appeared to get under Podsednik's arm pit before Podsednik's hand touched first base, but Rapuano called him safe.

Again, replays clearly showed that Erstad had indeed made the tag in time, and again, the call led to another run. Dye grounded out, but after the Angels walked Konerko intentionally, Carl Everett singled in a run to give the White Sox a 6-2 lead.

So while the TV broadcast of the game seemed to focus as much time on replays of the pivotal calls as it did on the live coverage, the Angels wouldn't blame the umpires for the loss.

"That's baseball," Garret Anderson said. "That sounds like an excuse to me.

"[The White Sox] came out, played well and beat us."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.