posted at 5/17/2013 3:35 PM EDT
Definitely clutch. But some commentators up above seem to have forgotten the exact situation.
Yes, Rodney walked not two, but three Sox players, who all ended up scoring. However, he also had two outs when Middlebrooks came to bat--a righty against a righty, advantage to Rodney. Plus in his last outing against us, Tues night, Rodney struck out all three Sox, so Maddon had every reason to believe Middlebrooks would be out if Rodney could get the ball over the plate.
And what happened? Rodney quickly got an 0-2 count with pitches virtually in the middle of the plate. The third pitch, high outside fastball, touched the corner but was correctly (I believe) called a ball, yielding a 1-2--a 100 mph fastball. I think the situation called for another fast ball in a different location, but the catcher Molina wanted a quick kill with a changeup to a righty hitter. Over the outside corner, that could have worked. Over the inside corner, it would have been no worse than a foul. But it was very close to the middle of the plate, slightly left (outside) and slightly below dead center. A fat pitch, especially at 85 mph. Give Middlebrooks tons of credit for not just hitting it, but hitting it squarely, which is why it got all to the wall on ground.
In distributing credit and blame for that play, one must agree with the OP on how clutch Middlebrooks was and blame the catcher and primarily Rodney for poor execution. No blame should accrue to Maddon, who made the right call on leaving Rodney in there. Lest we forget, even a fourth walk to Middlebrooks would not have tied the game and still given Maddon another option to leave Rodney in or bring in someone else.
Some of our contributors are I think guilty of 20-20 hindsight and of ignoring what the actual situation was.