By Mike DiGiovanna
CHICAGO — It was another game the Angels would love to forget. They overcame a three-run first-inning deficit to take a two-run lead, let it slip away and lost when Alex Rios hit a two-run home run in the 10th inning to give the Chicago White Sox an 8-6 walk-off victory Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field.
After grueling four-hour losses in Texas on Wednesday and Thursday, a third straight gut-wrenching defeat, in which newly acquired Zack Greinke was roughed up for six runs and 10 hits in seven innings, dropped the Angels six games behind the Rangers in the American League West.
Only this time, there is a chance, though a minuscule one at best, for the Angels to erase Friday night's loss from their hard drive.
They played most of the game under protest after a disputed call went against them in the bottom of the first, and Manager Mike Scioscia believes he has "a very clear case in our favor."
After Torii Hunter doubled and scored on Mark Trumbo's single in the top of the first, the White Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the first on singles by Alejandro De Aza and Kevin Youkilis and Adam Dunn's walk.
Paul Konerko grounded to third baseman Alberto Callaspo, who threw home to force De Aza, but catcher Chris Iannetta's throw to first pulled Albert Pujols off the bag. Scioscia argued that Konerko ran inside the baseline in the last 45 feet to first, a violation of Rule 6.05(k), and should have been called out.
Replays support Scioscia — Konerko was clearly inside the line — but the umpires, after huddling twice, upheld the call because, said crew chief Dana DeMuth, "Konerko in no way interfered with the play at first — the catcher threw wild."
Scioscia, a former catcher, begged to differ.
"Three umpires agreed Konerko was running well inside the line, which makes it virtually impossible for him to not affect the throw from Iannetta," Scioscia said. "It very clearly puts him in the throwing lane of our catcher."
Rios singled to left to score Youkilis, but in a spectacular home-plate collision featuring 515 pounds of ballplayer, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Dunn was tagged out by the 6-foot, 230-pound Iannetta, who leaped for Trumbo's throw and held on as Dunn barreled into him.
Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski followed with a three-run homer to right-center that gave the White Sox a 4-1 lead.
Which brings us back to the protest.
Even if it were determined that a protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game would be ordered unless, in the opinion of the executive vice president of baseball operations — Joe Torre — the violation adversely affected the protesting club's chances of winning the game.
Had Konerko been ruled out, Youkilis and Dunn would have returned to second and first, respectively, "and it's a totally different inning," Scioscia said. "There's two outs and no runs in. And Zack has to throw 15 fewer pitches."
It's rare — but not unprecedented — for such protests to be upheld. In the famous George Brett pine-tar game in 1983, then-AL president Lee MacPhail upheld Kansas City's protest and ordered its game against the Yankees restarted from the point of Brett's home run.
If the Angels' protest is upheld, Mike Trout's two-run homer in the second, RBI singles by Howie Kendrick and Maicer Izturis in the third and Pujols' sixth-inning solo homer, his fifth in four games, would be erased.
But so would Rios' solo homer off Greinke in the sixth, De Aza's RBI double that made it 6-6 in the seventh, Dunn's check-swing tapper for a single off Hisanori Takahashi in the 10th, and Rios' third career walk-off homer, off Angels right-hander David Carpenter.
Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times