ST. LOUIS — The Red Sox lost Game 3 of the World Series on a play that will go down in history.
Let’s go through the sequence of events:
• The Cardinals had runners on second and third and one out with John Jay at the plate facing Koji Uehara. With the infield in, Jay grounded a ball up the middle.
Dustin Pedroia made a terrific diving stop and fired to the plate. Jarrod Saltalamacchia tagged out Yadier Molina. That’s two outs.
The Red Sox would have been wise here to eat the ball and let Uehera face Pete Kozma with two outs. But that didn’t happen.
• Allen Craig was slow going from second base to third base and Saltalamacchia came up throwing.
“You’re taught to make the tag and look up. I made the tag and looked up. I saw [Craig] wasn’t even halfway there,” Saltalamacchia said. “He’s not been running great. I thought I was able to get him.”
The throw tailed into the runner and third baseman Will Middlebrooks did not catch it. The ball rolled into foul territory.
It was a play reminiscent of Game 2 when Craig Breslow threw wildly to third base and cost the Red Sox that game.
“It’s a bang-bang play. As it turns out we have forced a couple of throws to third base that have proven costly,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “Tonight was a costly throw.”
• With Middlebrooks on the ground and his legs up, Craig tripped over him. Umpire Jim Joyce immediately called obstruction.
“When [Craig] tried to advance to home, the feet were up in the air and he tripped over Middlebrooks right there and immediately and instinctively I called obstruction,” Joyce said.
Middlebrooks said he did not put his feet up intentionally.
“i was just trying to make the play. I had nowhere to go,” he said.
According to the umpires, intent has no bearing on the call. Middlebrooks obstructed Craig when Craig fell over him.
“The feet didn’t play too much into that because he was still in the area where the base runner needs to go to advance to home plate,” Joyce said. “The baserunner has every right to go unobstructed to home plate and unfortunately for Middlebrooks he was right there and there was contact.”
Said MLB vice-present Joe Torre: “I know sometimes it’s unfair because he’s laying on the ground but that’s the way the rule is.”
• Joyce made the call immediately, turning to look just as the two players collided. Left fielder Daniel Nava, backing up the play, made a strong throw to the play and Craig appeared out.
But home plate umpire Dana DeMuth pointed at Joyce and acknowledged the obstruction call. Craig never appeared to actually touch the plate but he was safe because of the call.
“Our determination is whether he could have scored or not,” Joyce said. “Dana immediately pointed down at me knowing that we had obstruction.”
Said crew chief John Hirschbeck: “Since it was right there, bang-bang play, obviously that’s obstruction.”
• One question is whether Craig was in the baseline when he was obstructed. Joyce said he was “right on the chalk” which was not the case. Hirschbeck pointed out that the runner “establishes his own baseline” in this case.
• The aftermath had the Red Sox shocked.
“I don’t care what anybody says, that’s no way for a World Series game to end,” David Ortiz said.
Jake Peavy was furious, as were several other players. “It’s an absolute joke,” Peavy said.
“That’s a terrible way for a game to end,” Middlebrooks said. “I thought we had a double play. … I don’t know what else I could have done.”
Said Farrell: “I guess by the letter of the rule you could say it’s obstruction. But that’s a tough pill to swallow.”