The obstruction call was obviously (UNDERSTATEMENT ALERT) the big story from the Cardinals’ walk-off win in Game 3 of the World Series. (If you haven’t already seen it, or you’re into self-flagellation, you can check it out here. Just make sure you’re in a padded room or something. Seriously. That play singlehandedly cost me a few thousand brain cells and my security deposit.)
Now that I’ve finally (sort of) emerged from my speechless, semi-comatose state that could not process what the heck was happening last night, I have a few thoughts about the game, starting with (what else?) the obstruction call:
- Clearly I’m looking at it from a biased perspective as a Red Sox fan, but even so, I thought that was the wrong call to make, regardless of the “no intent necessary” clause. I always thought that the fielder had as much a right to the ball as the baserunner had to the base path, and third baseman Will Middlebrooks was clearly there as a result of trying to make a play on the throw by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (more on that in a bit). This probably has no bearing on the call, but Middlebrooks wasn’t even in the middle of the base path – all Allen Craig had to do was follow the white line and there’s no flailing fielder in his way. Worst of all, he might still have been dead to rights at home even without tripping over Middlebrooks’s high tops…
- Now, for Saltalamacchia’s throw…an inexcusably awful decision, especially with two outs in the inning. However, for all the Twitter rationalists out there who wondered how Salty could throw down to third with the banjo-playing Pete Kozma (0-for-4 on the night) next up at the plate, that line of logic makes no sense. In the middle of that play, having just tagged out the potential winning run at home, is the Red Sox catcher really supposed to remember, “Oh yeah, Kozma’s coming up, I’ll just stop in mid-throwing motion and let the injured Craig stroll into third. No big deal.” In fact, I get why Saltalamacchia would throw down to third – it’s a play he’s probably made thousands upon thousands of times in practice and games, and it’s pretty tantalizing to get the third out of the inning when it looks like it’s right there in front of you for the taking. A more worthwhile criticism would be that the Red Sox had their best (heck, maybe even MLB’s best, at least this season, and especially for one out) pitcher on the mound at the time. That’s easier to be cognizant of than who the next hitter is in the opposing lineup.
- My oh my, what a brilliant play by Dustin Pedroia to (initially) save the game. Infield in, he lays out in full to snag the ground ball by Jon Jay, and manages to get up and gun Yadier Molina down at home. Incredible, unbelievable piece of glove wizardry. Sadly, ’twas all for naught…
- I’m going to keep working backwards, to why the Red Sox even elected to pitch to Jay in the first place with runners on second and third with only one out. THAT is an appropriate time to examine the on-deck circle (after all, that’s Farrell’s call, and he’s presumably not in the midst of executing an extremely difficult and athletic play) and realize that it’s better to face Kozma with the double play possibility than Jay with the infield in and more holes through which to sneak a seeing-eye single. In the end, pitching to Jay would have worked out pretty well barring that ill-advised throw by Saltalamacchia, but the process was not sound.
- Speaking of poor processing by Farrell, how about Brandon Workman getting his first professional at-bat in the ninth inning of a tie game in the World Series? Yeah, that happened. I mean, I get that Farrell wanted him to go more than an inning, but you can’t possibly have a pitcher batting in that situation. As the always astute Jackie MacMullan points out in her ESPNBoston article, why not pull a double switch with Workman and push back the pitcher’s spot? This was even more vexing when Farrell yanked Workman at the first sign of trouble in the bottom of the frame. If he was on such a short leash, what was the point of wasting such a critical out? I guess you could argue he traded Workman’s out at the plate for one out on the mound (he retired the leadoff hitter), but not all outs are created equal.’
- It’s a sad day when not even Koji Uehara can save the day.
- If it’s any consolation, Farrell admitted his mistake after the game, saying he should have double switched Saltalamacchia and the pitcher’s spot. This would have brought David Ross to the plate with one out in the ninth, and Mike Napoli would still have been available for the non-guaranteed future extra inning plate appearance. Hey, at least he learned his lesson for the two remaining games that are left in St. Louis, right? RIGHT?
- In a related story, the Red Sox lost with Napoli still wearing his sweatshirt on the bench. Any time you can keep one of your most prolific home run hitters from getting into the most important game of your season, you have to do it.
- But enough rehashing and mental wrist-cutting! How about Xander Bogaerts?! The kid (I can say this now that I’m 25, right?) had his fingerprints all over this game, at least up until the moment Middlebrooks “interfered” with Craig and the Red Sox lost (crap, sorry, I forgot I said no more rehashing, I won’t do it again). He got the Red Sox back within one run with a leadoff triple into the gap in right-center, just annihilating the ball to the opposite field. Then, with two outs in the eighth, the Xand-man hit a bounding ball that just snuck up the middle off the glove of Kozma to bring in Shane Victorino from third to tie the game.
- His one blip was after Bogaerts took over at short when Middlebrooks pinch hit for Stephen Drew against the lefty. He took a poor approach on a slow roller to short and let the lead-off man reach with the go-ahead run in the seventh.
- Poor Craig Breslow.
- I liked having Daniel Nava in the game, and felt way more comfortable with his approach and ability at the plate versus right-handers. I’m not buying the Jonny Gomes intangibles, sorry.
- Hey, at least the Red Sox showed they can get to the Cardinals bullpen! Lil Pedro Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal both gave up key hits in the eighth inning rally.
- If there’s a Game 7 (and that’s a big IF at this point), Jake Peavy would be in line to start for the Red Sox. His line last night: 4 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 K. Inspiring stuff.
- One final thought: thank god there’s football on today (like, right now!), and thank god Game 4 is tonight. I can’t keep reliving that final play in my mind, or I’ll go crazy (whoops, too late, for you and me both). Go Pats!
Tags: Allen Craig, Brandon Workman, Dustin Pedroia, Jake Peavy, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, John Farrell, Jon Lester, Lil Pedro, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks, World Series, Xander Bogaerts