ST. LOUIS — The Boston Red Sox moved on Sunday, trying to erase the memory of the bizarre finish from Game Three of the World Series the night before.
But it won’t be easy to ever get away from being the victims of the first game-ending obstruction call in postseason history.
“It wasn’t a normal night of sleep, I know that,” manager John Farrell said Sunday in Busch Stadium before Game Four.
“I think today everyone was fine,” added Game Five starter Jon Lester. “I think last night, that’s not how you want to end a World Series game. I think some guys were probably shocked, confused, a lot of different emotions going on. But there’s nothing we can do to change it.”
The Sox suffered a 5-4 loss Saturday night when Allen Craig was awarded home with two outs in the bottom of the ninth because he was obstructed by Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks after Jarrad Saltalamacchia’s throw to third was wide and sailed into left field.
The play started with John Jay’s grounder to a diving Dustin Pedroia at second base, who fired home to nail Yadier Molina. Saltalamacchia then made an ill-advised throw to third to try to nail Craig advancing.
Daniel Nava alertly backed up the play and fired home, where Craig was apparently tagged out for what would have been an incredible double play of two runners out at the plate. But umpire Dana DeMuth signaled safe and pointed to third, where base umpire Jim Joyce had ruled the obstruction.
“I saw Craig out by a couple of feet, and started tiptoeing backwards back into the dugout and then they called him safe,” St. Louis Game Five starter Adam Wainwright said Sunday. “I thought, ‘Wow, I think I’ve just witnessed the worst call in the history of the game at home plate,’ only to find out there was obstruction.”
Replays showed Middlebrooks, on his chest just inside the third-base bag after diving for the throw, clearly raised his legs behind him and that impeded Craig’s progress, with the runner falling over him before getting up and proceeding home.
According to the umpires, whether he did that on purpose or not makes no difference. It would be obstruction either way.
“He said, ‘You have to get out of the way,’ “ Middlebrooks said of Joyce. “I was inside the base and he was too. There wasn’t anywhere for me to go. As I was getting up, he was going over me. I felt something on my back.”
It was Craig’s hands, pushing on Middlebrooks to spring himself up so he could head home.
“I wasn’t focused on anything other than thinking, ‘I gotta get home’ and he was in my way,” said Craig, who had doubled Molina to third as a pinch-hitter against Koji Uehara. “I couldn’t tell you if he was trying to trip me or not. I was just trying to get over him so I could score. As a runner, your one-track mind is to get to third and get to home.”
Farrell said Sunday he wished the interference/obstruction rules were different.
“The call was made correctly,” Farrell said. “If there was the ability to have some measure in that portion of judgment on intent, it would help. Right now there is none. It doesn’t matter on intent or not. When Will Middlebrooks is lying on his stomach, it’s hard to say he was intending to impede that runner’s progress.
“The way the obstruction rule is set up right now, the baserunner can be the aggressor and beneficiary on both sides. They can seek out an infielder, run into him and benefit by advancing.”
The final call aside, Farrell was crushed by both Boston media and Red Sox fans for several decisions in the late going. Many took to Twitter and invoked Grady Little and John McNamara slams against him and thus added him to the roll call of infamy of Red Sox managers who struggled under the glare of the postseason spotlight.
Their complaints were pretty numerous in the ninth inning after things had gone fine to that point.
Farrell allowed reliever Brandon Workman to hit with one out in the ninth in a tie game – even though Workman had never batted professionally and regular first baseman Mike Napoli was still on the bench. Workman struck out on three straight pitches from closer Trevor Rosenthal and Farrell admitted after the game he should have double-switched after the previous inning so that backup catcher David Ross was hitting in that spot.
Farrell was more defiant on that point Sunday.
“We had Workman at the plate rather than David Ross against Rosenthal, who was throwing 100. I wish someone could guarantee it a different outcome, based on who’s at the plate.”
Farrell said he needed three innings out of Workman and closer Koji Uehara and “how we got there, unfortunately, was with Workman at the plate.” He was hoping to get through the ninth so that Rosenthal would be out and Uehara would be pitching the 10th.
“And knowing Koji is going out for one more inning on our side, I feel like we’re maybe in a little bit more of an advantageous spot,” Farrell said. “It didn’t work out.”
Farrell also didn’t walk Jay to load the bases, when he could have had Uehara facing light-hitting Pete Kozma. Uehara had just nine walks in 84 innings this year to that point.
Said Farrell: “To walk the bases loaded and back Koji in a corner where he has no room to maneuver inside a given at-bat? Didn’t want to do it.”