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Cardinals score winning run on obstruction call

St. Louis Cardinals' Allen Craig gets tangled with BostRed Sox's Will Middlebrooks during ninth inning Game 3 baseball's World Series

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)

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Updated: November 28, 2013 6:54AM

ST. LOUIS — More than three years later, umpire Jim Joyce might have made a career-defining call that finally overshadows the one he’d like to forget.

In perhaps the wildest finish of a game in World Series history, Joyce’s obstruction call on Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks with two out in the bottom of the ninth allowed Allen Craig to score the winning run and give the Cardinals a 5-4 victory in Game 3 that puts them two games away from their second championship in three years.

“Tough way to have a game end, particularly of this significance,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who argued for several minutes after home-plate umpire Dana DeMuth confirmed Joyce’s call despite a throw home that beat Craig by more than a step.

“I guess by the letter of the rule you could say it’s obstruction. That’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Until Saturday’s ninth inning, the long-respected Joyce was best known for his blown call in 2010 on a would-be final out that cost young Detroit Tigers pitcher ­Armando Galarraga a perfect game.

This time, Joyce got the call right by all accounts.

“As soon as we got off the field we congratulated Jim on a great call,” crew chief John Hirschbeck said.

A great call that none of the longtime baseball people involved in the game had ever seen to end a game.

“Never,” said Joyce, who made the call quickly and decisively as soon as Craig tripped over Middlebrooks — who was sprawled across Craig’s path after lunging unsuccessfully for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s wide throw past third after a fielder’s choice at the plate.

Middlebrooks had little if any time to avoid Craig once he missed the throw as Craig slid into third, but the rule does not require intent, Hirschbeck said. And Joyce said that when Middlebrooks appeared to raise his legs as the players got tied up, it didn’t make a difference for the call.

“Because he was still in the area where the base runner needs to go to advance to home plate,” Joyce said. “I immediately and instinctually called obstruction.”

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he was prepared to ­argue obstruction as he watched the play develop.

“It was obviously going to be a conversation one way or the other,” he said, “because we saw the tangle there, and it’s just a matter of how they interpret it, and that’s the rule.”

It was the second game in a row the Cardinals won after capitalizing when the Red Sox made a wild throw toward third. Their 4-2 victory in Game 2 turned on pitcher Craig Breslow’s errant throw.

“It was as bang-bang play,” Farrell said of Saturday’s throw. “As it turns out, we have forced a couple throws at third base that have proven costly. Tonight was a costly throw.”

In fact, a World Series matchup heralded as a battle of the best teams from each league has turned on sloppy play in all three games. The Red Sox have committed five errors, including the one Middlebrooks got charged with to end this one.

Red Sox starter Jake Peavy, acquired from the White Sox in a three-way trade during the season, struggled for a second consecutive postseason game. Peavy lasted just four innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs. That was an inning longer than he pitched in his loss to the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 of the ALCS.


Twitter: @GDubCub

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