ST. LOUIS -- The Red Sox pride themselves on their resilience and their mental toughness. Now, those qualities are about to be tested again -- because this is the kind of loss that can sting for a couple of days.
Turning the page on a tough loss is one thing. Turning the page on a tough loss in the World Series, a tough loss that ended with a very close and a very arguable call, is something else.
"This game's not going to define our team," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said after Boston lost Game 3 of the World Series, 5-4, on Saturday night at Busch Stadium.
Inside a quiet clubhouse, Pedroia emphasized that one loss was just one loss, regardless of how difficult it was to swallow.
Cue the anger.
"I think it's a crying shame that a call like that is going to decide a World Series game," starting pitcher Jake Peavy said.
The game was tied at 4 in the bottom of the ninth inning when Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks got tangled up with Cardinals baserunner Allen Craig as a throw from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia sailed down the left-field line.
Third-base ump Jim Joyce called Middlebrooks for obstruction and waved Craig home with the winning run. Cards fans will look at the replay and see a tough, correct, close call. Red Sox fans will see an umpiring mistake.
Around the Red Sox's clubhouse, reaction was unforgiving about the call, but consistent about its carryover.
"I can promise you one thing," Saltalamacchia said. "We're not going to come back here tomorrow thinking about tonight. That's what we've done all year long. Why change now?"
Again, though, the Red Sox's challenge will be to have the way they lost Game 3 in their rearview mirror by the time Game 4 begins on Sunday night.
"When you watch how hard these two teams are playing in the World Series and what it takes to get here and what it takes to climb back in that game, it's just amazing to me that it would end on a call like that," Peavy said.
OK, he didn't like the call. None of them did.
"What am I supposed to do?" Middlebrooks said. "He was on top of me. I was trying to get up. I don't understand it."
Regardless of whether the call was right or wrong, the Sox have less than 24 hours to prepare for Game 4.
"It's disappointing how it ended, but we'll be fine," Pedroia said.
The Red Sox lost on a night when manager John Farrell tried almost everything. To give his slumbering offense a spark, he benched Jonny Gomes and inserted Daniel Nava in left field.
That decision worked in that Nava had a hit and two RBIs. But the Red Sox still couldn't score five runs. Farrell also used three pinch-hitters, even sending up Middlebrooks to bat for slumping shortstop Stephen Drew in the seventh inning.
Farrell left himself open to a huge second-guess by allowing reliever Brandon Workman to bat for himself in the ninth inning. For one thing, it was Workman's first at-bat in professional baseball. Until Saturday, he'd never had one at any level. To start one's offensive career in Game 3 of the World Series probably isn't the ideal training ground.
For another, Farrell lost a game by one run without using one of his best hitters, Mike Napoli. Afterward, Farrell second-guessed himself on that one.
Still, larger questions abound. Whether Joyce got the call right or not, the Red Sox trail the best-of-seven series, 2-1.
Boston is hitting .188 in the World Series and dealing with holes throughout its lineup. Farrell has already made his one logical change in inserting Nava for Gomes in left. After that, his lineup is pretty close to set unless he decides to give Drew a night off, switch Xander Bogaerts to short and put Middlebrooks back at third.
Farrell has been asked about such a move throughout the postseason, as Drew hasn't hit. Farrell has consistently said that Drew's biggest value to the Red Sox is in the runs he saves at shortstop.
The Red Sox will be in a 3-1 Series hole if they lose Game 4 on Sunday. They were truly challenged only one other time in the postseason. That's when they dropped Game 1 of the American League Championship Series to Detroit and trailed Game 2, 5-1, before David Ortiz delivered a game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning.
The Red Sox went on to win that game and, eventually, the AL pennant. So at least they've been here before.
"Obviously, we're mad right now, but you have to have that ability to walk out of the clubhouse and forget about it," Saltalamacchia said. "It's a lesson you go through. I think we'll be all right."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.