ST. LOUIS -- The obstruction call that gave the Cardinals a 5-4 win and a 2-1 World Series lead on Saturday night doesn't happen if Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks keeps a wide throw in front of him, and he isn't put in that position if catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia doesn't force a play that isn't there.
Red Sox manager John Farrell didn't condemn Saltalamacchia's attempt to throw out a hobbled Allen Craig at third base, but he didn't necessarily defend it, either, saying: "It's a bang-bang play. As it turns out, we have forced a couple of throws to third base that have proven costly. Tonight was a costly throw."
Two nights earlier, Craig Breslow retrieved the ball after it trickled off Saltalamacchia's glove and fired well high of third base, turning a sacrifice fly into two runs and paving the way for a bitter defeat in Game 2 at Fenway Park.
On Saturday, the Red Sox suffered a walk-off loss at Busch Stadium because of an obstruction call that began on a throw that should have never been made.
With runners on second and third, one out and tied at 4 in the bottom of the ninth, Jon Jay hit a sharp grounder to second. Dustin Pedroia dove to his right, fielded it cleanly and fired home to easily retire Yadier Molina, who couldn't score from first on Craig's double down the left-field line. Then Saltalamacchia got overaggressive, making a snap throw to third even though Craig would've easily been safe.
"I wasn't expecting him to go, but at the same time, you have to make the tag and look up," Saltalamacchia explained. "I made the tag and looked up, and I saw he wasn't even halfway there and he hasn't been running great. I thought I was going to be able to get him, and I made the throw."
|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: If 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.|
The throw sailed wide of third and out of the reach of Middlebrooks, who got tripped up by a sliding Craig. Daniel Nava backed it up, fielded it in foul territory and made a perfect one-hop throw home to get Craig at the plate. But home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth signaled safe, pointing to third-base ump Jim Joyce, who ruled that Middlebrooks obstructed the play by kicking his feet up and tripping Craig while he was trying to score.
"When I pushed myself up, he was on my back pushing off me, so what am I supposed to do?" Middlebrooks said.
"It definitely wasn't what you expected," Nava added. "Knowing that Pedey made a great play right there, gave ourselves a chance to come back the next half [inning], and then I threw home and thought he was out. It was just kind of weird."
Middlebrooks believes he couldn't have obstructed the runner because he was "five feet inside" the baseline. But the baseline is the runner's path; not necessarily the white chalk on the field. And, as executive vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball Joe Torre pointed out while referencing the rule book, "Intentional or not intentional, [the fielder] just has to clear the path. I know sometimes it's unfair because he's laying on the ground, but that's the way the rule is."
The Red Sox, however, were not an easy group to convince.
Jake Peavy called it "a crying shame" and "a joke" that the call was made, and David Ortiz said: "I don't think you finish a World Series game like that."
"From the replay, I didn't see how it was obstruction," Saltalamacchia said. "I mean, he's lying on the ground. Craig was actually out of the baseline trying to jump over him. I just don't see how that was. But that's the way it went."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.