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White Sox wipe out Royals on balk call

July 5, 2011

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— The Kansas City Royals’ latest loss left them perplexed.

Aaron Crow committed a game-ending balk in the ninth inning and the Chicago White Sox beat Kansas City, 5-4, on Monday night after the Royals had tied it on a homer first ruled a triple in the top of the inning.

A.J. Pierzynski led off the ninth with a pinch-hit single off Crow (2-2), advancing to second on Gordon Beckham’s sacrifice bunt, then to third on a wild pitch. After striking out Mark Teahen, Crow walked pinch-hitter Juan Pierre. With Adam Dunn up and facing a 1-0 count, Crow stepped off the mound and home plate umpire Ed Rapuano called a balk, giving Chicago the win.

“I just thought I stepped straight off the back of the mound,” said Crow, the rookie who was selected to his first All-Star game a day earlier. “I tried to (get an explanation) but I couldn’t hear what (Rapuano) was saying ... It’s tough. At the same time, if I didn’t throw a wild pitch to let him get to third base, even if he did call a balk it wouldn’t cost us the game. I just have to keep out of those situations.”

Royals manager Ned Yost argued the call with Rapuano before heading back to the dugout.

“I don’t know how you can end a game like that,” Yost said. “They seem to all be in agreement in the umpires’ room that it was a balk. I’ve watched the video 15 times. There was no intent to deceive any runners. He was stepping off. Maybe he turned his shoulder a little bit. I don’t know. I don’t know how you can step off and turn your shoulder. But he was standing here and then just kind of turned his shoulder, turned his head and stepped off. I don’t know.”

Royals outfielders Jeff Francouer was even more adamant.

“I love Ed Rapuano and he’s one of my favorite (umpires), but you better be damn well sure if someone balks when you call a game on that,” Francoeur said. “I understand if he drops the ball or blatantly moves, but he’s calling him for flinching when he’s stepping back off the mound — what the hell are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to step off? It’s a disappointing call.”

Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning off Crow to make it 4-3. Dunn, who came in hitting .165, received a loud ovation from the 31,077 fans.

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