ST. LOUIS — Game 3 of the World Series ended in chaos for the Red Sox and a 5-4 loss against the St. Louis Cardinals that will go down in history for its controversy.
Allen Craig scored the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning when third baseman Will Middlebrooks was called for obstruction.
A classic game ended in bizarre fashion with the Cardinals celebrating as the Red Sox confronted the umpires, seeking an explanation.
“I don’t care what anybody says, that’s no way for a World Series game to end,” David Ortiz said.
With runners on second and third and one out, Jon Jay hit a groundball to second base. Dustin Pedroia made a diving stop and threw out Yadier Molina at the plate. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia then threw to third to try and get Craig and the ball went into foul territory down the line.
Middlebrooks dove for the low throw and was on the dirt with both legs up in the air. Craig tripped over him when he scrambled up.
Left fielder Daniel Nava made an accurate throw to the plate and Saltalamacchia tagged Craig. But third base umpire Jim Joyce had already called obstruction. Craig was safe regardless of the play.
“When [Craig] tried to advance to home, the feet were up in the air and he tripped over Middlebrooks right there,” Joyce said. “Immediately and instinctually, I called obstruction.”
Middlebrooks, the umpires said, could have avoided obstruction by getting out of the way. But he did not have that opportunity.
“The throw was into the runner and I was trying to make the play,” Middlebrooks said. “I had nowhere to go. I didn’t do anything purposely. That’s a terrible way to lose a game.”
The Cardinals lead the Series, 2-1, with Game 4 Sunday night. The Red Sox will pitch Clay Buchholz against Lance Lynn.
The play recalled memories of Game 3 of the 1975 Series when umpire Larry Barnett did not call Cincinnati’s Ed Armbrister for interfering with Carlton Fisk. That led to the Reds scoring the go-ahead run and beating the Sox in 10 innings.
This time, the call resulted directly in the loss. None of the umpires, players, coaches, or either manger could remember a game ending in such fashion.
“I guess by the letter of the law you could say it’s obstruction,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “That’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Farrell managed the game in a way that will be debated. After rookie righthander Brandon Workman pitched the eighth inning, he was allowed to hit in the top of the ninth in a 4-4 game and struck out. Mike Napoli and David Ross were available off the bench.
“In hindsight I probably should have double-switched after [Saltalamacchia] made the final out in the [eighth] inning with Workman coming into the game,” Farrell said.
Workman started the ninth and allowed a one-out single by Molina. That brought closer Koji Uehara into the game. Farrell explained that he thought he had Uehara available for only four or five outs.
Workman took the loss. Trevor Rosenthal worked 1⅔ innings for the win. Matt Holliday drove in three runs for St. Louis.
“It took a couple of base hits and the guys making something happen there at the end,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
The Sox were down, 4-2, going into the eighth when Jacoby Ellsbury singled and Shane Victorino was hit by a pitch from Carlos Martinez.
The runners moved up when Dustin Pedroia broke his bat and grounded to shortstop. After Ortiz was intentionally walked, the Cardinals went to Rosenthal.
Nava grounded to second and a run scored when the Cardinals could not turn a double play. Xander Bogaerts than bounced a single up the middle to tie the game.
Saltalamacchia grounded out to end the inning. Workman left two runners stranded in the bottom of the inning, setting the stage for a ninth that will not soon be forgotten.
The Cardinals went after Red Sox starter Jake Peavy in the first inning, swinging at 12 of the 21 pitches he threw and putting seven balls in play. Four were singles as they took a 2-0 lead.
Matt Carpenter led off with a sharp single to right field. Carlos Beltran, surprisingly, bunted a 3-and-1 fastball and sacrificed Carpenter to second.
Holliday’s line drive to right field made it 1-0. Singles by Matt Adams and Molina scored Holliday.
Peavy needed only 23 pitches to work his way through the second and third innings. But trouble started again in the fourth.
Molina reached on a bloop single to shallow center. Peavy then walked David Freese before Jay singled to center. Ellsbury, who has one of the weakest outfield arms in the game, conceded the run and threw the ball to the cutoff man. But Molina stayed at third base.
That proved to be a huge mistake. Peavy struck out Pete Kozma for the first out. Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly then popped up to second and Carpenter to short to end the inning.
Through four innings, the Red Sox had one hit against Kelly. That came in the fourth when Ellsbury singled.
Kelly pitched around Ortiz with two outs, walking him on four pitches. Nava, back in the lineup and batting sixth, struck out to finish a seven-pitch at-bat.
The Sox broke through in the fifth. Bogaerts drove a ball into the gap in right that split the outfielders and went for a triple. Saltalamacchia then walked.
Stephen Drew struck out but pinch hitter Mike Carp, batting for the first time since Oct. 16, hit a slow roller to second base and a run scored on the fielder’s choice at second.
Peavy allowed two runs on six hits over four innings. He walked one and struck out four.
Peavy has a 9.27 ERA in five career postseason starts. If the Series goes seven games, he would be in line to start.
The Red Sox tied the game in the sixth. Victorino led off with his first walk of the postseason.
With Ortiz up, Matheny went to lefthander Randy Choate. The reliever got ahead 1-and-2 then threw Ortiz a two-seam fastball instead of a breaking or off-speed pitch. Ortiz pulled it to right field for a single and Victorino went to third.
Matheny played the percentages again and brought in righthander Seth Maness to face Nava. The first pitch was a sinker that stayed up and Nava ripped it to left field for an RBI single.
Felix Doubront threw two scoreless innings in relief of Peavy. Craig Breslow, whose throwing error lost Game two for the Red Sox, started the seventh inning. Middlebrooks, who had pinch hit for Drew in the top of the inning, was at third base and Bogaerts shifted to shortstop.
They were tested right away when Carpenter hit a ball slowly to the left side. Middlebrooks let Bogaerts take it and his slow reaction and low throw resulted in an infield hit.
Beltran then took a fastball off his well-padded elbow.
Junichi Tazawa came in to face Holliday. The third pitch, a splitter that stayed down, was pulled down the third base line. Middlebrooks dove at the ball, missed it and it went for a two-run double.
The rule that cost the Red Sox Game 3
OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.
Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. 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.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.