Right out of A.J. Pierzynski's playbook, only in reverse since it was the Angels at the plate Wednesday, a third strike in the dirt went slightly haywire and a controversy erupted during the game, as well as afterward, when White Sox closer David Robertson called Angels manager Mike Scioscia "bush league" for his handling of a replay review of the play.
With the White Sox leading 2-1, Angels shortstop Erick Aybar struck out to lead off the ninth against Robertson. The ball was in the dirt, so White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers reached out to tag Aybar on the leg, with plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth making an out signal.
Abyar kept on running to first base, though, with Flowers not making a throw after Culbreth made his out call.
Scioscia argued, ultimately challenging the ruling via replay. White Sox manager Robin Ventura questioned why there should even be a replay since an out signal was made.
Umpires reviewed the play and upheld their original call that Aybar was tagged out by Flowers. Scioscia, though, came back out to the home plate area to get an explanation. By rule, managers are not allowed to argue a replay decision, but Culbreth gave Scioscia the courtesy of explaining the decision.
Robertson, however, didn't care for the delay as he waited on the mound to pitch.
"I felt that Scioscia was very bush league, coming out there and standing in front of home plate after the play had already been reviewed," Robertson said. "I felt like once it has been reviewed, it has been reviewed on film and he's called out, there's no reason for you to come back out and argue the call. I guess that's just the way he is. It kind of changed the whole momentum in the ninth."
Robertson eventually blew the save on a wild rundown play, on which Jose Abreu tried to start a double play by initially stepping on first base.Taylor Featherstonscored from third base, and the White Sox were denied a double play when Alexei Ramirez was called for runner interference.
Scioscia was taken aback by Robertson's suggestion that his second discussion with Culbreth was gamesmanship.
"Absolutely that was not my intent. Absolutely not," Scioscia said. "It was an important part because it was a possible protest. In fact, I thought I moved out of the way so he could throw, but he would have gotten a chance to throw anyway. Absolutely not. Not one iota of my intent was any gamesmanship. I had to get a reason for the ruling because if the ruling was that he killed the play, then it was something I could protest. I had to get a ruling."
In the 2005 ALCS, Pierzynski struck out in the ninth inning, and after making a move toward the dugout, he broke to first base. Catcher Josh Paul trapped the pitch close to the ground and then rolled it back to the mound. But Pierzynski was awarded first base and the White Sox went on to a controversial victory, eventually taking the series.
Wednesday's play had a similar feel, without the importance of a playoff game attached. But it ruffled feathers just the same.
"It didn't throw my rhythm off," Robertson said. "I think it's funny he walks out and stands in front of home plate. He knows I would like to get a few pitches in there. I wasn't given that opportunity, so I guess that's how he goes about business."
Scioscia reiterated that his intention was to get some clarity on the play. He was asked whether it was unfortunate that a player viewed his actions as "bush league."
"That's neither here nor there," Scioscia said. "It's definitely a misunderstanding because he was going to get to throw as many pitches as he needed. I just happened to be where the umpire was."