ST. LOUIS -- Grady Little, wherever you are, you have company.
Ten years after one Red Sox manager was run out of town for leaving Pedro Martinez to suffer through a Yankees rally, another Red Sox manager, John Farrell, will be on the hot plate along with the pancakes Sunday morning in New England.
Farrell's decision to allow rookie pitcher Brandon Workman to bat for himself in the ninth inning of a tie game in the World Series and leave strongman Mike Napoli on the bench backfired in horrifying fashion for the Red Sox in the bottom of the ninth, when the St. Louis Cardinals became the first team in Series history to win a game on an obstruction call.
The Cardinals won 5-4 when Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks was called for obstructing Allen Craig as he attempted to score when Jarrod Saltalamacchia's throw to third sailed into left field. Craig was tripped up when Middlebrooks, sprawled face-down after futilely trying to flag Saltalamacchia's throw after an out at the plate, appeared to lift his legs into the air.
As Craig slid into home plate with Daniel Nava's throw arriving simultaneously, plate umpire Dana DeMuth pointed vigorously toward third base, indicating obstruction. Third-base umpire Jim Joyce had already signaled obstruction from his station.
Farrell came out to argue to no avail; unlike Game 1, when DeMuth's botched call at second base was overturned, no one on the umpiring crew challenged Joyce or DeMuth on this one, with replays appearing to support the umpires.
"Tough way to have a game end," Farrell said.
The rule can be found in the Official Rules of Major League Baseball, Section 2.00, Definition of Terms:
"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: ... 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."
Farrell said he regretted not pinch-hitting for Workman in the top of the ninth.
"In hindsight, having Workman hit against [Trevor] Rosenthal was a mismatch," Farrell admitted afterward, saying he should have double-switched after Saltalamacchia made the final out of the eighth inning. He said he had hoped to squeeze another inning out of Workman.
Yadier Molina started the winning rally with a one-out single to right-center. Farrell then went to closer Koji Uehara, who was greeted with a double by Craig that sent Molina to third. With the infield in, Jon Jay hit a smash that Dustin Pedroia dove to his right to smother, then threw out Molina. Saltalamacchia then threw to third in an attempt to get Craig, but his throw was wide of Middlebrooks.
There have been 56 games in Series history that have not ended on an out. This was the first to end on an obstruction call.
It was the second Series game the Sox have lost on a bad throw to third. Reliever Craig Breslow made an error that led to the tie-breaking run in Game 2's 4-2 Cardinals win.
"We have forced a couple of throws at third base that have proven costly," Farrell said.
Play it again, Xander: Rookie Xander Bogaerts, with his fifth-inning triple, at 21 became the third-youngest player ever to triple in a Series game. Two 20-year-olds, Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle, also tripled. You may have heard of them.
Invincible under the Arch: The Cardinals are now 13-1 in their last 14 postseason games played at Busch Stadium.
Swing-game implications: Teams that have won Game 3 of a Series tied after two games have gone on to win the Series 37 times (67.3 percent), including each of the last four and 11 of the last 12. The exception was in 2003, when the Yankees took a 2 games to 1 lead over the Marlins, only to have the Marlins win the last four.
Poison Ivy Leaguer: This has been the World Series to forget so far for Sox reliever Breslow, the Yale man. His throwing error in Game 2 led to the go-ahead and insurance run in the Cardinals' 4-2 win; he entered in the seventh inning Saturday, and both batters he faced reached: Carpenter on a soft infield single to short, and Carlos Beltran took a pitch off -- well, we can't be sure, perhaps a loose thread hanging from his sleeve. Farrell went to Junichi Tazawa, who gave up a two-run double to Matt Holliday to give the Cardinals the lead. Breslow was the pitcher of record and would have been charged with a loss if the Sox had not rallied to tie.
Boomerang bunt: Beltran is the Cardinals' best hitter, and one of October's best on any team. Which made it all the more puzzling when he elected to bunt a 3-and-1 pitch with Matt Carpenter aboard on a leadoff single in the first. Yes, the Sox were overshifted, and it took a good play to throw out Beltran, but Mr. Five-Twenty-Three slugging percentage bunting -- in the first inning? The Cardinals followed with three more hits in the inning and scored twice, but who knows how much bigger an inning it would have been if Beltran hit away? And he should never have been credited with a sacrifice; he obviously was bunting for a hit.
Conservative Midwesterners: That would be Molina and third-base coach Jose Oquendo, who combined to cost the Cardinals a run when Molina held up at third on Jay's single in the fourth. Ordinarily, taking the conservative route there is the right decision. The hit loaded the bases with no out, and Molina is slow. But Jay's hit was to center field, where Jacoby Ellsbury has a notoriously weak arm, and the 8-9 spots in the order were coming up. Sure enough, Pete Kozma took a called third strike from Jake Peavy, and pitcher Joe Kelly and leadoff man Carpenter popped out. It was Peavy's best pitching on a night that ended after four innings and a blown opportunity for the Cardinals.
Silence of the lambs: Stephen Drew is 4-for-44 (.091) in the postseason after striking out twice in his only at-bats Saturday; Saltalamacchia is 6-for-32 (.187) in the postseason after striking out twice and walking once. Shane Victorino is hitless in 10 at at-bats since winning Game 6 of the ALCS with a grand slam, although he scored after walking in the sixth and being hit by a pitch in the eighth. Drew and Saltalamacchia have combined to strike out 36 times in 76 at-bats, or 47.4 percent of the time. Both could sit on Sunday. Bogaerts moved from third to short after Middlebrooks pinch hit for Drew in the seventh; David Ross, who has been having better at-bats of late, figures to start ahead of Saltalamacchia.