ST. LOUIS (AP)— No way Allen Craig would trip over Will Middlebrooks in one of the wildest World Series endings imaginable.
A rare obstruction call on the Red Sox third baseman let Craig score with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, finishing off a mad-cap play that sent the Cardinals over the Boston Red Sox 5-4 Saturday night for a 2-1 Series lead.
"I'm in shock right now," St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina said.
So was most everyone at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals poured from the dugout to congratulate Craig. The Red Sox also rushed to the plate, to argue with the umpires. The fans seemed too startled to cheer.
A walk-off win? More like a trip-off.
"Tough way to have a game end, particularly of this significance," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
After an umpire's call was the crux of Game 1 and a poor Boston throw to third base helped decide Game 2, this night combined both elements.
Molina singled with one out in the ninth off losing pitcher Brandon Workman. Craig, just back from a sprained foot, pinch-hit and lined Koji Uehara's first pitch into left field for a double that put runners on second and third.
With the infield in, Jon Jay hit a grounder to diving second baseman Dustin Pedroia. He made a sensational stab and threw home to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who tagged out the sliding Molina.
But then Saltalamacchia threw wide of third trying to get Craig. The ball glanced off Middlebrooks' glove and Craig's body, caroming into foul territory down the line.
After the ball got by, Middlebrooks, lying on his stomach, raised both legs and tripped Craig, slowing him down as he tried to take off for home.
"I just know I have to dive for that ball. I'm on the ground. There's nowhere for me to go," Middlebrooks said.
Third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately signaled obstruction.
"With the defensive player on the ground, without intent or intent, it's still obstruction," Joyce said. "You'd probably have to ask Middlebrooks that one, if he could have done anything. But that's not in our determination."
Craig kept scrambling.
"He was in my way. I couldn't tell you if he tried to trip me or not. I was just trying to get over him," he said.
Left fielder Daniel Nava retrieved the ball and made a strong throw home, where Saltalamacchia tagged a sliding Craig in time. But plate umpire Dana DeMuth signaled safe and then pointed to third, making clear the obstruction had been called.
"I was excited at first because we nailed the guy at home. I wasn't sure why he was called safe," Middlebrooks said.
"We're all running to home to see why he was called safe. We didn't think there was any obstruction there, obviously. As I'm getting up, he trips over me. I don't know what else to say."
Said Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday: "You hate for it to end on a somewhat controversial play."
"You would like for it to end a little cleaner, but that's part of it," he said.
Joyce and crew chief John Hirschbeck said they'd never seen a similar game-ending play.
A neat coincidence, though: In 2004, umpire Paul Emmel called obstruction on Seattle shortstop Jose Lopez, ruling he blocked Carl Crawford's sightline and giving Tampa Bay the game-ending run. Emmel was the first base umpire on this night, too.
To some Red Sox fans, the tangle might've brought back painful memories from the 1975 World Series. In Game 3, Cincinnati's Ed Armbrister wasn't called for interference by plate umpire Larry Barnett when he blocked Boston catcher Carlton Fisk on a 10th-inning bunt. Fisk made a wild throw, setting up Joe Morgan's winning single.
Craig returned for this Series from a sprained left foot that had sidelined him since early September. After an awkward slide on the final play, he hobbled off the field in apparent discomfort.
The Red Sox scored twice in the eighth to tie it 4-all. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a single and Shane Victorino was hit by a pitch for the sixth time this postseason. Both runners moved up on Pedroia's groundout, and David Ortiz was intentionally walked.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny went to hard-throwing closer Trevor Rosenthal with the bases loaded, hoping for a five-out save from a rookie who has looked almost untouchable this October. But the Red Sox pushed two runs across.
Nava drove in one with a short-hop grounder that was smothered by second baseman Kolten Wong, who had just entered on defense in a double-switch.
Wong went to second for the forceout, but Nava beat the relay and Ellsbury scored to make it 4-3. Xander Bogaerts tied it when he chopped a single up the middle.
Workman jammed Holliday and retired the slugger on a routine fly with two on to end the bottom of the eighth. That sent the game to the ninth tied at 4. Rosenthal wound up with the win.
Holliday's two-run double put the Cardinals on top 4-2 in the seventh.
It was a tough inning for Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow. Matt Carpenter reached safely when he checked his swing on an infield single to shortstop. Carlos Beltran was grazed on the elbow pad by a pitch — making no effort to get out of the way.
Beltran, in fact, almost appeared to stick his elbow out just a tiny bit to make sure the ball made contact.
Junichi Tazawa came on and Holliday pulled a grounder past Middlebrooks at third. The ball kicked into the left-field corner and Holliday went all the way to third on the throw to the plate.
Tazawa then got a couple of strikeouts and prevented further damage.
It was Middlebrooks' first inning in the field. He entered as a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh and took over at third base in the bottom half.
That shifted Bogaerts to shortstop — and neither one was able to make the difficult defensive play Boston needed in that inning.
Cardinals starter Joe Kelly, one of the few major league pitchers to wear glasses on the mound, set down his first nine batters. The Red Sox seemed to see him better the next time around in coming back from a 2-0 deficit.
Bogaerts opened the fifth with a triple that banged-up right fielder Beltran couldn't quite reach. The rookie later scored on a grounder by pinch-hitter Mike Carp.
Slumping Shane Victorino drew a leadoff walk from Kelly in the sixth and wound up scoring the tying run. Ortiz grounded a single off lefty reliever Randy Choate, and Nava greeted Seth Maness with an RBI single that made it 2-all.
Their fielding woes from Game 1 far behind them, the slick-fielding Cardinals made several sharp plays. Kelly barehanded a one-hopper, Carpenter threw out a runner from his knees up the middle and third baseman David Freese backhanded a line drive.
St. Louis quickly broke ahead, scoring in the first inning for the first time this October on RBI singles by Holliday and Molina. After the Cardinals got three hits in a span of four pitches, Red Sox reliever Felix Doubront began heating up in a hurry before Jake Peavy settled down.
Full Text of Obstruction Rule:
OBSTRUCTION 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: 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.
When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal "Obstruction."
(a) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire's judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.
Rule 7.06(a) Comment: When a play is being made on an obstructed runner, the umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that he calls "Time," with both hands overhead. The ball is immediately dead when this signal is given; however, should a thrown ball be in flight before the obstruction is called by the umpire, the runners are to be awarded such bases on wild throws as they would have been awarded had not obstruction occurred. On a play where a runner was trapped between second and third and obstructed by the third baseman going into third base while the throw is in flight from the shortstop, if such throw goes into the dugout the obstructed runner is to be awarded home base. Any other runners on base in this situation would also be awarded two bases from the base they last legally touched before obstruction was called.
Game four coverage starts at 8:00 p.m. on FOX 25.
© 2018 Cox Media Group.