The most captivating aspect of sports is the unpredictability of the contest. There’s been a lot of analysis and opinion involved with the coverage of this World Series. But in Game 3, the complexities of comparing lineups, pitching matchups and situational batting averages gave way to Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks feet simply getting in the way.
In what was a poker-faced see saw battle throughout, an unprecedented obstruction call on Middlebrooks in the bottom of the ninth reversed what would have been an out at home, and allowed a run to score from third, giving the Redbirds a loopy 5-4 victory. They now lead 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
WS games have ended with dramatic walk offs, errors, missed calls and controversy, but an obstruction call might be a first.
In the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied at 4-4, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina reached on a single and then Allen Craig rips the first pitch he sees for a double, placing runners on second and third.
Boston plays its infield in. St. Louis’ pinch-hitter John Jay hits a ball that second baseman Dustin Pedroia dives to his right to stab. Pedroia gets up and nails Molina at the plate. Craig whose speed is compromised due to a bad foot, is slow coming to third, so catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia tries to throw him out. The ball sails wildly past Middlebrooks. As Craig attempts to dash home, Middlebrooks is also trying to get up off of his stomach, but his back legs trip Craig. The Red Sox get the ball and gun it to the plate, nailing Craig for the apparent out.
However, umpires Dana Demuth and Jim Joyce decided that Middlebrooks interfered with Craig’s progress and allowed the winning run. Busche Stadium went bonkers.
“Our determination is whether or not he could have scored or not,” Joyce said in a postgame interview on MLB Network. “And as soon as Craig slid into home plate, Dana immediately pointed down at me knowing that we had obstruction and it impeded Allen to score the run, essentially. Dana did a great job on installing that right away. Dana did a great job signaling that right away.“
A glorious October Red Sox comeback turned into a lesson on the intricate and rigid rules of baseball.
Boston fans are tight right now because they don’t want to see their team’s hard-earned comeback squelched by a technicality. L's like these run Randy Moss-deep and fate dictates a lot of the heartache involved in this game of skill.
“That was a weird play,” Molina said on Fox TV , “but we really needed this game.”
St. Louis deserved the game. It wasn’t a gift and shouldn’t be considered controversial. The ending was dissapointing and highly unusual, but nobody got railroaded.
According to sportsdefinitions.com (to keep it simple), obstruction occurs when a fielder who is not in possession of the ball and is not fielding the ball blocks the progress of a runner.
Crew Chief John Hirschbeck made it even clearer in the post game interview:
“Just to go over the rule quickly,” Hirschbeck said. “obstruction is the act of a fielder obstructing a runner when not in the act of fielding a ball. It does not have to be intent. There does not have to be intent, okay? Once he has the opportunity to field the ball, he can no longer in any way obstruct the runner. That's basically the rule.”
It was imperative that the umps make that call. Umpires can’t get caught up in what would make a dope story, or how unappealing a ruling might be. They might face a media interrogation and catch some flak from Red Sox Nation, but it would have been worse if Boston came back to win and the umpire crew ignored the fact that Middlebrooks (intentionally or unintentionally) tried to scissor tackle Craig.
"It's part of the game," Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday said. "The guy was in his way. … We'll take it."
The Cardinals have also taken the October Teflon tag from a Boston squad that came into the series unblemished in their last two WS.
It seems lady luck is playing with hearts again. In the Fall Classic, she’s the truest player, bouncing back and forth between teams without committing victory to anyone.
On night’s like Saturday she rears her unpredictable head. Just when the Red Sox thought it knew lady luck’s limits, and were riding the emotional high of Big Papi having her on smash—a two-bit obstruction call could become the start of their ending.