Interference call tough to swallow
Aybar's rundown collision with Pierzynski affects Rays' loss
CHICAGO -- Sunday's Rays-White Sox contest saw a controversial call affect the outcome when A.J. Pierzynski got caught in a rundown in the 10th inning, but was ruled safe when interference was called on Rays third baseman Willy Aybar.
Pierzynski went on to score the winning run in the White Sox 6-5 win, preventing the Rays from taking a three-game sweep.
"Everybody in the clubhouse right now is pretty ticked off," Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett said. "We played a great series. We should be happy, but right now we're not."
With one out in the 10th and Pierzynski on second, Jermaine Dye grounded to Bartlett and Pierzynski got caught in a rundown. Subsequently, Pierzynski went to the ground and appeared to be tagged out for the second out of the inning. But second-base umpire Doug Eddings called interference on Aybar for making contact with Pierzynski.
"What Doug ruled at second base was, even though A.J. did kind of stick his arm out to make contact, Aybar was still in his way, so A.J., if he would have turned, he wouldn't have been able to continue on to third," said third-base umpire Ted Barrett, who addressed the situation after the game. "So after making the throw, Aybar is no longer in the act of fielding and he can't obstruct the runner, which is what Doug ruled happened.
"In a rundown, even though A.J. was going back to second, the rule of obstruction during a rundown is he gets his next advanced base and that's why he was rewarded third base."
Barrett said that if Aybar had the ball there would have been no obstruction.
"You protect the fielder when he's in the act of fielding," Barrett said. "Once that ball's released and out of his hand, he has to vacate."
Pierzynski used some self-depreciating humor when he said that with his speed -- or lack thereof -- he was trying to do anything to escape.
"First of all, it was bad baserunning on my part," Pierzynski said. "I shouldn't have went -- horrible baserunning. But I was just looking for somebody to get close enough and luckily he did."
Rays catcher Dioner Navarro translated for Aybar, who said, "When I threw the ball, I just tried to get out of the runner's way. ... [Eddings told him he] was the one who created the contact."
Bartlett could not believe the call.
"I saw A.J. throw his arm out," Bartlett said. "That was about it. I was amazed he called it. ... As soon as A.J. tripped, he yelled 'Obstruction.' I looked at the umpire like, 'You're kidding me?' ... That's the breaks I guess."
Bartlett acknowledged everybody knows Pierzynski plays hard.
"But he also does little things like that, you know," Bartlett said. "It's something they're going to see on tape after the game and probably see that they made the wrong call. You can't change anything now."
Both managers had different opinions of the play.
"They just said that he bumped him," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That Willy interfered, obstructed with the runner, and he gave him the extra base. I disagree.
"... I have a lot of respect for that group. I've known [all of the crew] for a long time. I respect that group. I just told them I thought they got the call wrong."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen thought the correct call was made.
"I was looking at the replay and both had contact," Guillen said. "But the defensive player, he made contact before A.J. did."
Ironically, Eddings received national attention during Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series between the White Sox and Angels when Pierzynski reached first base against Los Angeles after striking out. Eddings had been the umpire behind home plate, who ruled that the ball had hit the ground before Angels catcher Josh Paul caught the ball. Paul had rolled the ball back to the pitcher thinking Eddings had called strike three.
"I didn't think about that until you said it, but I guess it's ironic," Pierzynski said. "It's just a funny coincidence, I guess. Him and I will be linked forever because of that one play and now there are two plays."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.