BOSTON (CBS) – Well, that’s a first.
The Red Sox find themselves in a 2-1 hole to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series thanks to an obstruction call in the bottom of the ninth on third baseman Will Middlebrooks. To the surprise of no one, the Cardinals are the first team in MLB history to win a game on an obstruction call.
St. Louis had runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the ninth, but Koji Uehara got Jon Jay to ground to second with in the infield in. Dustin Pedroia fired the ball home to get Yadier Molina at the plate, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia tried to get Allen Craig at third and his throw went into left field.
As Craig began to make his way home, he ran into Middlebrooks who was still on the ground, and the Sox third baseman was immediately called for obstruction.
Craig was awarded home (the throw to the plate actually beat him, but that didn’t matter) and the Cardinals came out with one wild and wacky 5-4 win.
Dana Demuth (the home plate ump) and Jim Joyce (third base) explained the call after the game, with a base runner having every right to advance unimpeded. Whether the obstruction is intentional or unintentional doesn’t matter — it’s obstruction.
Here is the definition of obstruction in the MLB rule book: “Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: …After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the ‘act of fielding’ the ball. For example, an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.”
The Red Sox weren’t happy with the call, shocked that a World Series game can come down to something like that.
“I don’t know how he gets out of the way if he’s lying on the ground,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the game. “That’s a tough pill to swallow.”
But that is how it goes, and now they have a 2-1 series hole to dig themselves out of. Here’s a breakdown of a very odd Game 3:
THE TURNING POINT
As soon as Saltalamacchia let that ball fly in the ninth inning, you just kind of had a feeling things weren’t going to end well for the Sox. From now on, Boston is better off sticking the ball in their back pocket rather than trying to make a play at third base.
It stings a little more knowing that Pete Kozma and his .152 postseason batting average were waiting on deck when it all hit the fan.
Matt Holliday came up with two big hits for the Cardinals in this one; an RBI single in the bottom of the first to put St. Louis up 1-0, and a two-run double in the seventh to break up a 2-2 tie.
Take your pick, as there are a few of them for Boston.
You can look at Middlebrooks for a sub-par evening at third. He may have been able to snag Holliday’s double down the line in the seventh, and then should have made a better effort to knock down Saltalmacchia’s throw that led to the obstruction call. It’s hard to fault him for the actual obstruction, as it occurred as he was trying to make the play, but he was also 0-for-2 at the plate, flying out on the first pitch he saw as a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh and then striking out on four pitches in the top of the ninth.
Then there is Saltalmacchia, who went 0-for-3 at the plate with two more strikeouts, and should have just held on to the ball on the final play.
You can also look at some of (most of? all of?) the decisions Farrell made throughout this one; taking Felix Doubront out after two very good innings in relief of Jake Peavy, and then not pinch-hitting for Brandon Workman in the top of the ninth. Yes, Farrell had his pitcher hit in the ninth inning of a tie game in the World Series.
He explained why he didn’t pinch-hit Mike Napoli for Workman in the ninth, but admitted it was a mistake after the loss.
“In hindsight I probably should have double-switched right there when Salty made that final out and workman coming into the game. I felt like if we got into an extended situation, hold Nap back in the event that spot comes up again. In hindsight, having Workman hit against Rosenthal is a mismatch, but we needed more than one inning from him,” said Farrell.
To make matters just a little bit worse, David Ross — a much better defensive catcher than Saltalamacchia — would have been behind the plate had Farrell pulled off a double-switch for Workman.
Whoa boy, how do you bounce back from something like that? That’s the Red Sox’ task Sunday night in Game 4. Clay Buchholz will get the start, though he isn’t sure how much he has left after experiencing some fatigue this postseason. With five relievers seeing action in Game 3, the Boston bullpen will be pretty thin come Sunday and the last thing they need is a short outing from Buchholz.
But there is little doubt the Red Sox will be fired up and hungry for a win on Sunday given the way things ended on Saturday night. Many said Game 3 was a must-win for Boston, so Game 4 became that much more important.
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