Game three of the World Series was fantastic from start to… well not quite to the finish. The contest between the then tied St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox at Busch Stadium was an incredibly even back and forth contest right through the ninth inning. Although it is a shame that the referees, not the players, ultimately were the ones who decided the outcome and gave the Cardinals a World Series lead over the Red Sox, they were absolutely right to do do so.
Up to the call that will live in infamy, World Series game three came in twos. In the first inning the Cardinals jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead. Matt Holliday singled home Matt Carpenter to produce the first run of the night, and a Yadier Molina single would drive him home.
In the fifth inning Boston responded with a fielder’s choice that scored Xander Bogaerts and gave pinch hitter Matt Carp an RBI. A single by Daniel Nava tied the game at 2-2.
Holliday’s big night continued in the seventh with a double that scored both Carpenter and Carlos Beltran. 4-2 Cardinals.
With time slipping away the Red Sox dug deep and found a way to even the score heading into the final frame. Nava hit a fielder’s choice that allowed Jacoby Ellsbury to come home in the eighth. Bogaerts came through with a single shortly thereafter to even the score with a frame to go.
A great game as you can see, back and forth all night long. But this is where the refs, and the rule book, decided the outcome.
In the last half of the ninth, it was beginning to look like extra innings were possible. Jon Jay was up to bat, but the Sox just had to take care of business and secure the final outs to move on to the tenth.
Jay drilled a fielder’s choice that enabled the Sox to get the ball to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and tag out Yadier Molina at the plate. Noticing that Allen Craig was trying to make it to third, Saltalamacchia relayed a quick throw to third. The throw was off line and third baseman Will Middlebrooks had to dive to try and corral the loose ball.
When Middlebrooks came up short, the ball scurried into the outfield and Craig began to run home. With Middlebrooks still on the ground from his dive at the ball however, Craig tripped over his legs and was eventually tagged out at the plate. What appeared to be a trip to extra innings was immediately determined by umpire Jim Joyce to be an interference call. The run counted and the Cardinals had a 2-1 World Series lead over the Red Sox with a 5-4 victory.
As strange as the ending to the game felt, and as upset as the Red Sox were at losing, the call was absolutely the right one. Umpires get paid to uphold and enforce the rule book, and that is exactly what Joyce did.
“Just to go over the rule quickly, obstruction is the act of a fielder obstructing a runner when not in the act of fielding a ball. It does not have to be intent,” umpiring crew chief John Hirschbeck explained after the game. “There does not have to be intent, OK? Once he has the opportunity to field the ball, he can no longer in any way obstruct the runner. That’s basically the rule.”
He is 100 percent correct. You don’t have to like it, heck I don’t like it, but it was a call that had to be made. Extra innings would have been more exciting to watch, and would have provided an outcome that no one likely would have questioned, but everyone plays by the same set of rules and the obstruction call had to be made. Props to Joyce for not hesitating on making what he had to have known would be a call he will never live down.
The situation seems unfair for Middlebrooks. There was nothing he, or the Red Sox could do as Craig turned towards home plate and tripped over his outstretched body. After diving for a ball one cannot instantly get out of the way of the basepath he had just dove across.
But the runner has the right of way, and unless Middlebrooks had the ball the rules state he can’t block Craig’s path home. An unavoidable situation, but one that was in clear violation of the rules.
I don’t like this any more than you do, unless you’re a Cardinals fan and in which case you probably think it was the greatest play of the season, but Joyce made the correct call. It’s just a shame the referees and rule book decided the outcome of a World Series game and not the Cardinals or Red Sox themselves.
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express