(BaseballStL) — There are a lot of ways to win a game, and the St. Louis Cardinals found one of the more unique ones Saturday night.
In one of the more improbable endings to a World Series game, the winning run scored on an obstruction call at third base.
Allen Craig, dormant for a month and a half, will be the lead photo in every sports section across the country Sunday morning.
Following a bloop single by Yadier Molina with one out, Craig pinch hit against Boston closer Koji Uehara. On the first pitch, he took a ball down the line in left field, moving Molina to third with a double.
Jon Jay the fouled a pitch off before hitting a ground ball to second base and starting a chain of events that will result in one of the more scrutinized calls in World Series history.
Jay's grounder was nabbed by Dustin Pedroia, who then fired a strike to home to catch Molina. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, having tagged his opposing counterpart out at the plate, threw quickly to third in an attempt to catch Craig.
The throw sailed wide, and Craig broke for home. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks had reached out for the ball, and fell to the ground after not being able to make the catch. As Craig started toward the plate, he tripped over the Boston fielder.
"The feet were up in the air, and he tripped over Middlebrooks right there," said third base umpire Jim Joyce. "Immediately and instinctually I called obstruction."
Joyce's hands went up, and Craig continued home, unaware of the call. Daniel Nava's throw beat him, but home plate ump Dana DeMuth waved off the play, confirming Joyce's call, which ruled Craig safe no matter the result at the plate.
"Dana immediately pointed down at me knowing that we had obstruction and it impeded Allen to score the run, essentially. Dana did a great job on installing that rigt away," Joyce said.
Despite the controversy on the field, each umpire remained steadfastly behind the call. While some questions arose as to whether or not Middlebrooks raised his legs intentionally to trip Craig, they are ultimately pointless.
Intent doesn't matter in obstruction calls. The call is made solely based on whether or not the runner's path was impeded by a fielder who was not in the act of fielding. Intentional or not, if a fielder does not have a play on the ball, they cannot obstruct a runner.
“We’re trained to look for these sort of things," said crew chief John Hirschbeck. "It’s out of the ordinary, but when it happens and it’s in the World Series we’re expected to get it right.”
Get it right they did. In fact, the play mirrored the rulebook's example almost exactly. According to the official rule, "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."
The call ended a game that was already ripe with high drama.
Twice the Cardinals took the lead, and twice Boston battled back to tie the game.
Jake Peavy wasn’t fooling anyone early, giving up a leadoff single to Matt Carpenter on the fifth pitch of the game.
Carlos Beltran, after seeing a hard sharp defensive shift against him, attempted to bunt his way on. He laid it down, but Peavy was able to make the play at first. Regardless, Carpenter had made his way to second and Matt Holliday had made his way to the plate.
After fouling off a fastball, the St. Louis left fielder ripped a shot to right, scoring Carpenter and giving the Redbirds an early lead.
By the time a roaring Busch Stadium ushered Yadier Molina into the box, it was apparent the Cardinals were having no trouble seeing the ball. Molina continued the trend, taking the first pitch he saw into left field, scoring Holliday for the second run of the game.
Peavy would survive five innings, fending off a bases-loaded, no out disaster in the fourth.
Joe Kelly would take a strong game into the sixth, fanning six and allowing two hits. His fastball was lively, hitting 98 on the gun several times to go with tons of movement. He started 12 out of 14 batters with a strike before giving up a leadoff triple in the fifth, then walking the struggling Saltalamacchia.
Kelly would escape the inning with only one run on the board, surrendered when pinch hitter Mike Carp hit a slow roller to second, and the Cardinals were unable to double him up.
The 25-year-old would pass the baton to Randy Choate in the sixth after walking Shane Victorino. Choate was unable to get David Ortiz, who singled. Seth Maness came in to face Daniel Nava, who tied the game on the first pitch he saw.
Maness unsurprisingly got an inning-ending double play, and the Cardinals would strike back in the seventh.
Carpenter again began the volley with a grounder to Xander Bogaerts, whose throw pulled a less-than-nimble David Ortiz off the bag at first.
Beltran would take a ball off the elbow pad, and Boston followed with a pitching change. Holliday took a 1-1 forkball from Junichi Tazawa down the left field line for a double, scoring both runners and igniting the stadium energy once again.
The Red Sox would not go quietly, scoring two more in the eighth inning off the combination of Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal. Boston strung together two singles, a hit bastsman and a fielder's choice to claw back into the contest.
Rosenthal kept the offense in check in the ninth, which allowed for the wild events in the Cardinal half of the inning to ultimately win the game.
The Redbirds take a 2-1 series lead into Sunday, where starter Lance Lynn will continue to add to his lead as the franchise's all-time postseason appearance record holder.