ST. LOUIS -- Don't blame this loss on the umpires, Red Sox fans. This was not Ed Armbrister in reverse. The umps made the correct call Saturday night. It's your manager who made the wrong one.
After all, had John Farrell made the correct moves, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia would not have been the Boston catcher in the ninth inning. So Saltalamacchia would not have made the disastrous throw that allowed Allen Craig to score from third base. So there would have been no tangling of Craig and third baseman Will Middlebrooks. So there would have been no controversial obstruction call that ended Game 3.
Just as importantly, relief pitcher Brandon Workman would not have batted for the first time in his professional career in the ninth inning of a tied World Series game. And Mike Napoli might have gotten a chance to contribute to a Boston victory rather than sit on the bench for the entire 5-4 loss to St. Louis.
Even Farrell admitted he messed up.
"In hindsight, I probably should have double-switched after Salty made the final out the previous inning, with Workman coming into the game," Farrell said. "I felt like if we got into an extended situation -- which the game was looking like it was going to -- [so I] held Napoli back in the event that spot came up again."
Farrell is a very smart manager with tremendous baseball experience at many levels in several organizations. He managed exceptionally this season, lifting the Red Sox from a last-place finish in 2012 to the World Series this fall.
But in the heat of the moment, things happen and they happen very quickly. Particularly with an American League manager working under National League rules.
In a game that was as much managerial chess moves as baseball, here was the situation. The Red Sox had tied the game at 4-4 in the eighth inning, with Saltalamacchia making the last out. It was now the top of the ninth. There was one out. The ninth spot in the order was coming up, which meant Farrell either had to let Workman bat or remove him after just one inning of relief.
Farrell was running low on pitchers and the game potentially could go several more innings. His Game 4 starter, Clay Buchholz has had trouble getting as far as the seventh inning, so it's likely he will need his bullpen Sunday night as well. He wanted Workman to get at least a couple more outs. So even though Napoli, who has had several big hits this postseason, was available to pinch hit, Farrell sent up Workman.
Workman struck out on three pitches. And then he lasted only one out into the ninth inning before Farrell brought in Koji Uehara anyway.
"In hindsight, having Workman hit against Trevor Rosenthal is a mismatch," Farrell said. "I recognize it but we needed more than one inning out of Workman."
Farrell did but he also needed to score a run. And when there are other options, you simply cannot let a relief pitcher bat, especially for the first time in his career. The last pitcher to bat in the ninth inning of a World Series was Sparky Lyle in 1977. Lyle also struck out but wound up getting the win in relief. Workman did not.
As Farrell admitted, he instead should have made a double-switch after Saltalamacchia made the final out of the eighth. He should have put Workman in Saltalamacchia's No. 7 spot in the order and brought in David Ross to catch, batting in the No. 9 hole.
It was too late to do that, though. But you still cannot let a pitcher hit when one of his best hitters is available. Farrell still had another option. He should have pinch hit Napoli there.
Maybe Napoli would have hit another home run, as he did in Boston's 1-0 ALCS victory over the Tigers. Or as he did in Boston's 4-3 ALCS victory over the Tigers. Or maybe he would have struck out. No one knows. But we do know Napoli would have had a much, much better chance of getting a hit than Workman.
Saltalamacchia, meanwhile, also made a wrong and costly call when he decided to throw the ball to third base after tagging out Yadier Molina in the bottom of the ninth. He should not have done so. He didn't have much chance of getting Craig. He should have been satisfied with having two out and Pete Kozma, he of the .216 batting average, coming to the plate.
Instead, he fired the ball and well ... all hell broke loose.
"It's a bang-bang play," Farrell said. "As it turns out, we have forced a couple throws to third base that have proven costly. Tonight was a costly throw."
Which brings us back to the obstruction call.
Umpires rarely call obstruction. That they did so in that situation is ironic given that the most famous previous obstruction controversy in the World Series was when the umpires did NOT call it against Cincinnati's Ed Armbrister in Game 3 of the 1975 Red Sox-Reds series. Boston fans are still moaning about that.
The umpires were correct Saturday, however. The rule is clear that obstruction does not matter whether it was intentional or not. Had Jim Joyce not called it Saturday, St. Louis fans would be just as outraged as Red Sox fans are now.
Plus, remember that Cardinals fans felt like they got hosed in Game 1 when the umpires got together and overruled a call, an unusual move that proved very costly to St. Louis.
Thus, in the umpiring decisions this series, the score is: Umpires 2, Cardinals 1 and Red Sox 1. Of course, all that really matters is St. Louis leads the actual series two games to one.
So stop clogging the phone lines of your preferred sports talk radio show, Red Sox fans. It would be better to call someone to repair the TV screen you smashed after that obstruction call. After all, Game 4 is a very important game for your team tonight. And hopefully for you, Farrell will not send up Junichi Tazawa to bat for the first time in his major league career.