St. Louis Cardinals' Allen Craig gets tangled with Boston Red Sox's Will Middlebrooks during the ninth inning of Game 3 of baseball's World Series Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in St. Louis. Middlebrooks was called for obstruction on the play and Craig went in to score the game-winning run. The Cardinals won 5-4 to take a 2-1 lead in the series. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)AP2013
St. Louis – The Boston Red Sox keep stumbling. Forget about getting in the path of opponents, they can't even stay out of their own way.
Another bad throw to third.
Another painful loss.
And now, for the first time in 27 years, the Red Sox find themselves in a World Series deficit.
Usually you see tripping penalties on hockey ice, not baseball infields.
The crazy 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night, which ended with third baseman Will Middlebrooks, flat on his stomach, raising both legs and obstructing Allen Craig, joins the bizarre Boston lore that include Johnny Pesky holding the ball on Harry Walker's hit in 1946 and Bill Buckner allowing Mookie Wilson's grounder to through his legs in 1986.
"It's a crying shame to lose a game like this. I'm absolutely shocked a game of his magnitude ends on a play like that. It just doesn't seem right," said Jake Peavy, whose four gritty innings were pretty much forgotten. "We've been able to come back all year. I don't think this is something we can't come back from. You just don't expect to lose a game that way. It's shocking."
Thirty-eight years after an interference non-call did in the Red Sox in World Series Game 3, an obstruction ruling finished them off.
And now, things get really dicey.
With Boston trailing 2-1 in the Series, the Red Sox start Craig Buchholz in Game 4, a pitcher unsure how far he can go with a barking shoulder.
Felix Doubront, the most likely emergency starter, threw two innings and 25 pitches on Saturday night after Jake Peavy lasted just four innings.
"This game is not going to define our team," Dustin Pedroia said. "We lost tough game. We'll come out and play tomorrow. This won't stop us."
Hope for a third Series sweep in a decade disappeared when Craig Breslow threw wildly over third base in Game 2 and into the Fenway Park stands, turning Matt Carpenter's tying sacrifice fly into two runs.
When this one ended, Middlebrooks approached the umpires and raising his arms wide, as if to say "What could I do?"
"He was on top of me. There was nowhere for me to go there," Middlebrooks said. "If I dive and then Army-crawl to second as soon as I hit the ground, that's the only way I get out of the way there."
Back in 1975, Cincinnati pinch-hitter Ed Armbrister wasn't called for interference by plate umpire Larry Barnett when he blocked Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk on a 10th-inning bunt at Riverfront Stadium. Fisk's throw went off the glove of shortstop Rick Burleson, putting runners on second and third. Joe Morgan's RBI single gave Cincinnati a 6-5 win, and the Reds took the title in seven games.
This time, the Red Sox overcame deficits of 2-0 and 4-2. It was 4-all in the ninth when Yadier Molina singled with one out in the ninth off loser Brandon Workman and Craig pinch hit and lined Koji Uehara's first pitch down the left-field line for a double that put runners on second and third.
With the infield in, Jon Jay hit a two-hop grounder to a diving Pedroia at second. He made a backhand stop and threw home to Saltalamacchia, who had the ball 15 feet before the sliding Molina arrived at the plate.
Saltamacchia's throw to third in a try for Craig was about 18 inches to the fair side of the base and bounced into foul territory. Middlebrooks, reaching into fair territory, fell over third base and Craig's leg. And as left fielder Daniel Nava chased down the ball, Middlebrooks, with his stomach flat on the field, raised both legs and tripped Craig.
Third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately signaled obstruction. Even though a sliding Craig was tagged by Saltalamacchia at the plate following the throw by Nava, plate umpire Dana DeMuth signaled safe and then pointed to third, making clear the obstruction had been called.
"When I saw it on TV, from the replay, I didn't see how it was obstruction," Saltalamacchia said. "He's laying on the ground. Craig was actually out of the baseline, trying to jump over him."
All of this wound have been unnecessary had the Red Sox been able to throw to third base without sailing the ball toward the left-field seats. Red Sox manager John Farrell said in hindsight, he probably should have double-switched when the pitcher's spot came up in the top of the ninth, which would have taken Saltalamacchia out of the game.
This wasn't the Red Sox of the 2000s, who got the job done. This was the Boston of 1918-86, who found a way to lose.
Craig may have fallen at third base, but it was the Red Sox who flopped.