The St Louis Cardinals seized their first lead of the 109th World Series on Saturday, taking advantage of a ninth-inning obstruction call for a 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox.
What began as a low-scoring pitching duel turned into a see-saw offensive contest in the late innings, capped by one of the most bizarre finishes in World Series history.
“We saw the tangle there and it is just a matter of how they interpreted it, and that’s the rule,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Allen Craig scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth after he tripped over Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks, before racing to the home plate to give the Cardinals a victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Craig was tagged out at the home plate, but because the umpires ruled that Middlebrooks had interfered with him at third St Louis were awarded the winning run.
The Boston players protested vigorously, but television replays showed that Craig stumbled over a fallen Middlebrooks after the Red Sox infielder appeared to lift both his legs in an attempt to slow Craig down.
Middlebrooks was charged with an error on the play.
“That’s a tough pill to swallow,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “Tough way to end a game, especially of this significance when Will is trying to dive inside to stop the throw. I don’t know how he gets out of the way when he is lying on the ground.”
Game 4 was scheduled for yesterday in St Louis, where the Cardinals would try to take a 3-1 stranglehold.
Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday went two for five at the plate with three runs batted in, while starting pitcher Joe Kelly was terrific through five innings for the Cardinals, who have rebounded nicely from their 8-1 drubbing in Game 1 to win the next two contests.
“We live by the big hit and fortunately we got that big hit by Matt Holliday,” Matheny said. “He gave us some breathing room and then just a little bit of trouble closing the door at the end.”
Third base umpire Jim Joyce said he had no hesitation in calling interference on Middlebrooks.
“The feet were up in the air and he [Craig] tripped over Middlebrooks right there, and immediately and instinctually [sic] I called obstruction,” said Joyce, adding he has never seen a game end on a call like that before.
Kelly pitched 5-1/3 innings, allowing two hits and striking out six in front of a sold-out crowd of 47,432 at Busch Stadium.
Closer Trevor Rosenthal was credited with the victory as he pitched 1-2/3 innings allowing one hit and striking out two for the Cardinals, who are gunning for their 12th World Series title and second in three years.
History is now on the Cardinals’ side as the team winning Game 3 in a 1-1 World Series has gone on to win the title 67 percent of the time, including the last four.
The Cardinals struck for two runs in the first inning and two more in the seventh in a game that had plenty of momentum swings.
Every time the Cardinals took the lead, the Red Sox answered with runs of their own.
In the eighth inning, Boston’s Xander Bogaerts clubbed an RBI single to center field to plate Shane Victorino and tie the contest at 4-4.
The 21-year-old Bogaerts also hit a triple to lead off the fifth inning for Boston.
It is the first time since 1999 that the two teams with the top regular-season records in each league are facing off in the World Series and they are about as evenly matched as you can get.