Third-base umpire Ted Barrett's explanation of Doug Eddings' call:
"As a runner, you're allowed to (make contact). What Doug ruled at second base was, even though A.J. (Pierzynski) did kind of stick his arm out to make contact, (Willy) 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. 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. And 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.''
CHICAGO — In a bizarre trip around the bases, A.J. Pierzynski went from daring to desperate.
And after another controversial call involving him and umpire Doug Eddings went his way in Sunday's wild matinee, the red-hot Rays were "ticked off" and baffled, trying to come to grips with how they lost 6-5 in 10 innings when they were one pitch away from another sweep.
The Rays failed to close it out in the ninth, the tying run scoring after a dropped throw at the plate. The game's pivotal play, and point of contention, came after Pierzynski singled to lead off the 10th and made the heads-up play of advancing to second on a deep fly ball to center.
Then, on a sharply hit Jermaine Dye grounder to Jason Bartlett, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Pierzynski was caught in a rundown between second and third.
Pierzynski appeared to get tagged out after tripping, but Eddings called him safe, ruling that Rays third baseman Willy Aybar bumped the runner after throwing to second. Replays showed, and the Rays argued, that Pierzynski initiated the contact, sticking out his left elbow before falling. Pierzynski, who Bartlett said yelled "Obstruction!" after he fell, said the first thing he thought of was trying to "get somebody to get close enough to where I could touch them."
Pierzynski scored the winner on a single by Alexei Ramirez.
"When I threw the ball, I tried to get out of the runner's line and he fell back," Aybar said through an interpreter. "When he fell back, he swung around the elbow and hit me and that's the contact the umpire saw."
Third-base umpire Ted Barrett defended the call, saying that "even though A.J. did kind of stick out his arm to make contact, Aybar was still in his way."
Manager Joe Maddon argued vociferously but was more subdued afterward than he was after last week's controversial ruling that B.J. Upton made a move toward second, saying, "I just told them I thought they got the call wrong."
And with that, the Rays (79-50), now 41/2 games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East, left with what starter Andy Sonnanstine called "a bad taste in our mouths." They lost a game in which they led after eight innings for the first time in 70 games this season.
"Everybody in the clubhouse is pretty ticked off," Bartlett said. "We played a great series, won two out of three. We should be happy. But right now, we're not."
Sonnanstine came tantalizingly close to tying Rolando Arrojo's club record of 14 wins in a season.
The Rays had the lead, lost it, then got it back in the seventh on Carlos Pena's RBI double. But in the ninth, pinch-runner Brian Anderson scored after backup catcher Shawn Riggans dropped a throw from leftfielder Ben Zobrist, who charged Paul Konerko's single and fired a two-hopper that beat Anderson by several feet.
The Rays defense couldn't come up big in the 10th. Pierzynski, after his single, advanced when he "saw the way (Upton) was going after" a deep flyout to center. Upton said the ball drifted on him, forcing him to turn and preventing him from setting his feet.
That set up Pierzynski's fall, and a call from Eddings that reminded some of the 2005 ALCS, when Pierzynski reached first when he swung at a strike three that Eddings said hit the dirt.
"I think everyone knows A.J. plays hard but he also does little things like that, too," Bartlett said. "It's something (the umpires) are going to see on tape after the game and probably notice that they made the wrong call."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.