ST. LOUIS — A controversial obstruction call in the ninth inning Saturday night gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the World Series.
What looked like a bizarre inning-ending double play became an obstruction call against third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
With runners on second and third and one out in a tie game, Jon Jay hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who threw the runner out at home. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia then tried to throw out Allen Craig at third.
The ball got away from Middlebrooks, who fell while reaching for it.
After tripping over Middlebrooks, Craig tried to get up and their feet tangled. Craig broke free and headed home. Left fielder Daniel Nava threw Craig out, but umpire Dana DeMuth called Craig safe, signaling obstruction on Middlebrooks.
“Tough way to have a game end,” said Red Sox Manager John Farrell. “I don’t know how Will gets out of the way when he falls down.”
The Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the Series with Game 4 on Sunday night.
The first inning could not have gone worse for the Red Sox.
In the top of the inning, Cardinals starter Joe Kelly made Michael Wacha look like a soft tosser, firing 98 mph fastballs.
Jacoby Ellsbury struck out looking, Shane Victorino grounded out to Kelly and Pedroia grounded to first baseman Matt Adams.
Kelly threw only 11 pitches, all ranging from 95 to 98 mph, eight of them strikes.
Boston starter Jake Peavy doesn’t have the velocity. Nor did he have success in the first inning.
Four of the first five Cardinals reached on hard-hit singles. The one out was a sacrifice from Carlos Beltran as St. Louis took a 2-0 lead.
With runners on first and second with one out, Peavy limited the damage, getting David Freese to out to right and Jay to ground out.
Kelly kept firing. He breezed through the second inning on three groundouts and the third on two strikeouts and a groundout by Peavy.
Peavy enjoyed 1-2-3 innings in the second and third, helped out by some dubious baserunning.
With one out in the third, Matt Holliday hit a short fly to center. As he jogged up the first-base line, Ellsbury charged in from his usually deep center-field position.
Ellsbury couldn’t make the play, the ball bouncing off his glove. Holliday made a short break to second, then tried to get back to first. Pedroia retrieved the ball and threw Holliday out.
Boston got a baserunner in the fourth on an Ellsbury leadoff single. With two outs, the Cardinals pitched around Ortiz, walking him on four pitches. Nava worked a full count before striking out.
St. Louis squandered a big opportunity in the fourth. Yadier Molina led off with a single, then Peavy walked Freese. Jay followed with a single to center field.
Ellsbury was already conceding the run, throwing to the cutoff man, but third-base coach Jose Oquendo held up Molina at third base.
Peavy escaped the inning with a strikeout (Pete Kozma), and two pop-ups (Kelly and Matt Carpenter).
Boston finally scored in the fifth. Xander Bogaerts led off with a triple to right-center. Saltalamacchia walked. Stephen Drew struck out and Peavy was called back to the dugout.
Mike Carp came in to pinch hit. He hit a bouncer to second base. Saltalamacchia stopped so he couldn’t be easily tagged out for a double play. St. Louis got only the force at second as Bogaerts scored, closing the gap to 2-1.
Felix Doubront relieved Peavy in the fifth. He gave up a two-out double to Matt Adams. After intentionally walking Molina, he got Freese to fly to right field.
Boston threatened again in the sixth. Shane Victorino led off with a walk. Pedroia lined out. Ortiz came up and St. Louis Manager Mike Matheny called on left-hander reliever Randy Choate.
Ortiz singled to right, sending Victorino to third. Nava was due up to face Choate.
Although Nava can struggle against left-handers, Matheny brought in right-hander Seth Manses to replace Choate.
Nava pounced on the first pitch, going the opposite way with a single to left, easily scoring Victorino, making it 2-2. Bogaerts grounded into a double play to end the rally.
Doubront pitched a 1-2-3 sixth and probably would have been good for more, but he was scheduled to bat in the seventh.
With one out in the seventh, the Red Sox sent up two pinch hitters – Middlebrooks for Drew, and Jonny Gomes for Doubront. Both flied out to center.
For the bottom of the seventh, Craig Breslow relieved Doubront and Middlebrooks entered at third base, with Bogaerts moving to short.
Carpenter hit a slow grounder to Bogaerts. He moved to it cautiously and then side-armed a throw in the dirt that Ortiz could not hold.
Breslow then nicked Beltran on the sleeve of his jersey, putting two runners on with Holliday coming to bat.
Junichi Tazawa was summoned to relieve Breslow.
Holliday reached down and smacked a split fastball down the left-field line for a two-run double. Holliday reached third on the play, with St. Louis leading 4-2.
Tazawa stranded Holliday on third with two strikeouts, a walk and a fly-out.
St. Louis brought in fireballing setup man Carlos Martinez for the eighth. Ellsbury singled and Victorino was hit by a pitch. A Pedroia groundout advanced the runners and Martinez intentionally walked Ortiz to load the bases.
Closer Trevor Rosenthal was brought in to face Nava. On Thursday, Rosenthal struck out Nava handily. But Nava hit a bouncer to second base. The Cardinals got the force at second and were too late to get Nava. Ellsbury scored.
Bogaerts hit a hard bouncer up the middle. Shortstop Pete Kozma could only get the tip of his glove on it. Bogaerts reached with an RBI single, scoring Victorino to make it 4-4.
Brandon Workman relieved in the eighth. He got into a mini-jam with runners on first and second with Holliday up. But Holliday flied to left.
Boston wanted Workman to pitch the ninth even though he was scheduled to bat in the top of the inning. He made his professional debut as a hitter and struck out.
In the bottom of the ninth, Workman struck out Adams but gave up a single to Molina.
Koji Uehara was brought in to face pinch-hitter Craig. On the first pitch, Craig roped a double to left field, putting runners on second and third.
Jay grounded to Pedroia and the excitement began.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: [email protected]Twitter: @ClearTheBases