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Notes: Game's integrity most important

Notes: Game's integrity most important

ANAHEIM -- There are plays that decide games and there are plays that can define a series. In Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Wednesday, there was a play that was parts of both -- and it will likely fuel another argument for instant replay in baseball.

What transpired in the Angels' 2-1 loss that tied the series was this: With two out in the bottom of the ninth, A.J. Pierzynski swung and missed at strike three. Angels catcher Josh Paul caught the pitch low and near the dirt, but he felt it was a clean catch and, without hearing anything to the contrary from home-plate umpire Doug Eddings, rolled the ball to the mound and trotted back to the dugout.

Eddings indicated a swing with one motion and made an out sign with a second. But, as he would explain later, that was merely a strike-three call -- a "mechanic," in his terms -- and not an out call. Pierzynski, also not hearing anything, hesitated briefly before running to first base.

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The Angels argued to no avail, the call stood and Pierzynski was replaced by pinch-runner Pablo Ozuna, who stole second and scored the game-winning run on Joe Crede's walk-off double.

Television replays appeared to show that Paul caught the ball without it hitting the dirt, though the umpiring crew, which looked at videotape after the game, felt replays showed there was a change of direction in the flight of the pitch and it was inconclusive at best.

Mostly they were surprised that Paul didn't tag Pierzynski.

Though the consensus in the Angels' clubhouse was that Eddings missed the call, getting a second opinion in the form of a replay was an idea that didn't seem to have much traction.

"I'm from the old school; I like the way it is," said Darin Erstad, who was the first Angels player on the field to realize something was amiss when Eddings did not take off his mask as most umpires do when the inning is over. "Sometimes it stinks, but that is the way it is."

Game 1 winner Paul Byrd, who used to umpire back when he needed to earn some spare change, feels that adding an electronic component would steal the game's flow.

"Nobody is perfect, but the umpires are part of the game. I try to not yell at umpires because of my experience. I got yelled at a lot," Byrd said. "[Replay] would take the human element out of the game and that is part of it."

Jarrod Washburn, whose throwing error led to an unearned run in the first inning, tossed 4 2/3 innings Wednesday while still feeling the after-effects of strep throat. He would rather see his team up 2-0 when the series resumes on Friday at Angel Stadium, but he is ready to move on.

"I don't know about that; these guys do a good job most of the time," Washburn said. "I'm not going to sit here and say we need instant replay because of one play. They're human."

Whither, Vlad: The Angels' top offensive threat has been effectively muted in the first two games of the ALCS. Vladimir Guerrero is 0-for-8, knocking in a run and reaching base on a fielder's choice thanks to a take-out slide by Orlando Cabrera.

Guerrero has also been somewhat quiet through the first seven games of the postseason. In the five games of the ALDS against the Yankees, Guerrero went 6-for-18, but he did not drive in a run and did not have an extra-base hit.

Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said pitchers have not exactly pitched around Guerrero, but instead have chosen their spots to be aggressive in the strikezone. Still, the 2004 AL MVP is not hitting the ball with the same authority that he was during huge chunks of a regular season that produced a .317 batting average with 32 homers and 108 RBIs.

Arms race: With a combined total of eight runs scored in Chicago, neither team is expected to bust out soon. Both pitching staffs are particularly stingy, and the offenses are virtual mirrors of each other, relying on baserunning and timely hitting to score.

Jon Garland will take the hill for the White Sox on Friday, with John Lackey going for the Angels. Both teams will be looking for opportunities.

"They're good pitchers; they're tough on you," Chone Figgins said of Chicago's staff. "You do not expect to score a lot of runs off them, so you have to get your sac bunts down and get your runners in scoring position with less than two out. They're not used to giving up a lot of runs, and I don't think they're going to start now."

Figgins led the Angels in the regular season with 113 runs scored, but he has yet to cross home in the series with the White Sox. He has one hit and one stolen base.

Kickin' it: The Angels had a much-publicized tour of the country with some baseball thrown in when they played three games in three days in three different time zones, flying from New York to Anaheim and finally to Chicago, all in about 48 hours.

Thursday's break in the schedule normally calls for a workout for both clubs, but the Angels opted for some R and R.

"It's been a pretty tough week on us with the travel schedule, but it's something that we like," Scot Shields said. "We like to travel, especially coming out here, and we're still playing. As far as a much-needed day off, I think most of us are going to just sit around and rest."

Tendencies: With the series tied at a game apiece, the current setup would appear to favor the White Sox. Since the ALCS went to a seven-game format in 1985, the team with home-field advantage has won 13 of the 21 series played.

Favoring the White Sox, the home-field advantage team has won the series in five games a total of three times, in six games five times and in seven games five times.

Tipping toward the Angels, the team without home-field advantage has won the series twice in five games, four times in six games and another two times when it went the full distance.

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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