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The Cardinals won Game 3 of the World Series in one of the most unlikely ways possible: by being the beneficiaries of an obstruction call at third base that allowed the winning run to score, negating what appeared to be two outs at home plate on the same play that would have sent the game into extra innings.
It was the final heart-stopping moment of a thrilling Game 3 between Boston and St. Louis, and it appears the umpires got the call right. According to the MLB Rule Book:
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.
The call came when Cardinals baserunner Allen Craig tripped over Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks while trying to score on an errant throw that had hit Craig and gone past Middlebrooks into leftfield. The throw from leftfielder Daniel Nava beat Craig to the plate but third base umpire Jim Joyce had already ruled obstruction on Middlebrooks. It caused a moment of confusion when the Cardinals came out to celebrate their 5-4 win while the Red Sox surrounded home plate umpire Dana DeMuth -- whose missed call at second base in Game 1 was overturned in another rare instance -- to complain that Craig was clearly out. Boston soon realized Joyce had made the call at third awarding Craig home plate before Nava even made his throw, and trudged off the field trailing the World Series 2-games-to-1.
The rules, and the replay, both suggest it was the correct call. Incidentally, Joyce -- who is known best for being the ump who blew the call at first base that would have given Armando Galarraga a perfect game back in 2010 -- now has another reason to be remembered in baseball history.
It all started when St. Louis came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning of a terrific game with the score tied 4-4. Red Sox reliever Brandon Workman struck out Matt Adams leading off but Yadier Molina then singled into rightfield. Craig, who was relegated to the bench due to the lack of a designated hitter in the National League park, then hit for the pitcher. Boston countered with closer Koji Uehara, but Craig doubled to leftfield on Uehara's first pitch, sending Molina to third base.
With first base open, the winning run on third, one out, light-hitting Pete Kozma on deck and the Cardinals essentially out of pinch-hitters (only backup catcher Tony Cruz remained on their bench), the Red Sox opted to pitch to Jon Jay. The result was what you see in the video above, one of the wildest endings to a World Series games ever. Jay hit a hard ground ball to second, where Boston's Dustin Pedroia made a diving stop then threw home to get Molina, who was running on contact, for the second out.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia then threw to third to try to get Craig for the third out, but his throw tailed into the runner, somehow hitting Craig and scooting under his arm to trickle into foul territory in shallow leftfield. Craig popped out of his slide to try to score on the error, but tripped over the prone Middlebrooks. The fall allowed Nava's throw from leftfield to beat Craig to the plate, where Saltalamacchia applied the tag, but the umpires, correctly, ruled that Middlebrooks, however unwittingly, had obstructed Craig and ruled him safe. And you thought walk-off home runs were exciting.