ALCS Game 2 – White Sox 2, Angels 1
A.J. PIERZYNSKI, WHO has had a marvelous post-season for his White Sox thus far, yet again helped his team by striking out.
Yes, apparently you can do that and be a help.
With a 1-1 score in the ninth inning, Pierzynski, at-bat with two outs and a full count, swung on a Kelvim Escobar pitch too low to hit for strike three. Angels backup catcher Josh Paul, in unison with the rest of his team, began to trot towards the dugout in end-of-the-inning style, and Paul harmlessly lobbed the ball towards the mound.
Then Pierzynski ran to first base. He was called safe.
The umpire crew ruled that the pitch grazed the ground, activating Rule 6.09b of the MLB Official Rules:
The batter becomes a runner when the third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied, or (2) first base is occupied with two out; When a batter becomes a base runner on a third strike not caught by the catcher and starts for the dugout, or his position, and then realizes his situation and attempts then to reach first base, he is not out unless he or first base is tagged before he reaches first base.
In short, if strike three hits the ground, the batter needs to be tagged or thrown out.
The kicker in this call was amplified not just by the fact that it was a playoff game, but that the out would have ended the inning and brought the game to extra frames. Instead, the ninth carried on.
Pierzynski’s pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna stole second during next batter Joe Crede’s at-bat, then Crede laced a game-winning double down the left field line, scoring Ozuna.
OK, Mr. Paul. Now you can walk off the field.
Overshadowed by Pierzynski’s third strike, Sox starter Mark Buehrle (1-0) went the distance and tossed a gem — one run, five hits, no walks, and four strikeouts.
The Pale Hose drew first blood in the bottom of the first on a Jermaine Dye groundout which scored leadoff speedster Scott Podsednik. Then Los Angeles tied the game in the top of the 5th on a homerun to left field by third baseman Robb Quinlan.
Angels’ starter Jarrod Washburn turned in a 4-2/3-inning performance after battling strep throat over the weekend, allowing just the one unearned run. Escobar (0-1) took the loss in 2 2/3 innings of relief. Among 5 of his strikeouts was Pierzynski’s in the ninth.
NLCS Game 1 [not 2] – Cardinals 5, Astros 3
REGGIE SANDERS HAD a rather paltry post-season batting average coming into this year’s playoffs. Despite having a ring and playing in three World Series for as many teams, the veteran outfielder was only 9-for-70 (.129) in LCS games, and .188 in the entire playoffs.
That was his career, this is 2005.
Sanders continued to rip through playoff pitchers (10 RBI in 3 games against San Diego) in Game 1 of the NLCS by slamming a 2-run homerun in the first inning to give his Cardinals a quick 2-0 lead, and his team never looked back.
The Redbirds continued to pepper the scoreboard with runs off Astro starter Andy Pettitte (0-1). They added a run in the second (Chris Carpenter squeeze bunt scoring Mark Grudzielanek) and two in the fifth (David Eckstein liner to right, scoring Abraham Nunez; Albert Pujols drive to right center, scoring Eckstein).
That 5-0 lead was plenty cushion for Carpenter (1-0) to allow a two-run shot by Chris Burke in the seventh inning. And despite giving up a run in the ninth, Jason Isringhausen closed up shop with the save.
Sanders’ postseason numbers look much better now. Including the NLDS, Reggie is 5-for-15 (.333) with 2 homers and 12 RBI. For his career, Sanders career LCS average has “improved” to 14-for-85 (.165).
NLCS: The Astros try to even the series Thursday night as they hand the ball to 20-game winner Roy Oswalt. His tall task is to out-pitch St. Louis agent Mark Mulder Thursday night. (Thursday 8 p.m. EST, FOX)
ALCS: The Angels finally get a day off, but they have to travel — something they’re used to — back to California to rest up for Friday’s Game 3. In a battle of variations of the name “John,” John Lackey will take the mound for the Angels against the Sox’s Jon Garland. (Friday 8 p.m. EST, FOX)