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The million fluky things that go into winning a World Series game

Oct 27, 2013, 2:23 AM EDT

Allen Craig, hobbled by a painful foot injury that nearly ruled him out for the postseason, scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth Saturday on the first ever obstruction call to end a postseason game.

– Craig scored because Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whom manager John Farrell forgot to take out of the game, made a wild throw to third that Will Middlebrooks, a mid-game replacement, couldn’t grab because he was more concerned with staying on the base than getting in front of the ball.

– Craig drew the throw to third because he got a terrible jump off second on Jon Jay‘s grounder, freezing on the play even though he wasn’t supposed to be involved at all; he should have simply ran to third as soon as he saw Yadier Molina take off ahead of him. Had that happened, there’s no throw at all.

– Molina, who had the first hit of the inning, got his hit because Shane Victorino was playing no-doubles defense in right field. Had Molina hit the same ball in the sixth inning, there’s a good chance it would have been caught.

– Molina’s hit came off Brandon Workman, who actually got to hit in the top of the ninth in a tie game. Because manager John Farrell forgot to double-switch in the bottom of the eighth and have David Ross replace Saltalamacchia.

– That’s because Farrell wanted Workman to pitch two innings because he burned through his second and third best relievers, Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa, in the seventh.

– And that’s because Breslow gave up an infield single to Matt Carpenter on a ball that might have been handled by Stephen Drew at shortstop, except Drew had just replaced by a pinch-hitter. Breslow then hit Carlos Beltran on the elbow pad with a pitch. Beltran made no motion to avoid it, yet was awarded the base anyway. Had things turned out a bit differently in that frame and Breslow had stayed in, perhaps Craig would have pinch-hit then and not even have been available for the ninth. And had Farrell been able to get through the seventh using only one of Breslow or Tazawa, there’s a good chance Uehara finishes the eighth or is at least in there to start the ninth, since Farrell would still have one more guy he trusted in reserve.

– Middlebrooks was in the game because left-hander Kevin Siegrist pitched the seventh. Had Siegrist not given up a homer to David Ortiz in Game 1, he’s probably the choice to pitch to Ortiz and Daniel Nava in the sixth rather than Randy Choate. Because while manager Mike Matheny definitely wanted a lefty to face Ortiz, he didn’t want to risk Choate on the switch-hitter Nava; Siegrist would have been a much better choice to face him. And had Siegrist pitched then, Drew likely stays in to hit against a right-hander the following inning.

– Should I keep going? If Kolten Wong doesn’t steal second on a 2-1 pitch in the eighth, Beltran isn’t intentionally walked to send up Matt Holliday. Either Beltran could have done something good or he would have made an out, meaning Holliday would have started the ninth and the whole dynamic would have changed again.

– Blow it all up… the Cardinals were probably one hit away from knocking Jake Peavy out in the first inning tonight. Had that happened, not only might they have cruised to a victory, but it would have affected the whole Game 4 dynamic as well.

So many thousands of factors, whether it’s split-second decision on whether to try for the extra base or the bat connecting with the ball an inch farther up the barrel, determine the outcome of baseball games, yet we often try to boil it down to three or four. We guess and second guess, pretending that there’s only two outcomes for a play and that the outcome that results was destined to be the outcome all along (confirmation bias for the win!). The foul ball that lands a row into the stands precedes a two-run double. A 2-1 pitch that should have been ball three is judged strike two instead. Name it luck or something else, only a small portion of what actually goes into winning a baseball game shows up in the postgame recap.

  1. ultimatecardinalwarrior - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:46 AM

    This was great. Strange ending, but this game was incredibly tense all of the way through.

  2. ultraback29 - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:51 AM

    The radioactive Boston fans are the kind who would have a boiling point of 70 degrees, while the St. Louis fans can be said to have a boiling point of 120 degrees.

    • paperlions - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:20 AM

      I’m not sure what your point is, since boiling pts are 100C or 212F….but as I Cardinal fan, I can tell you that Cardinal fans would have reacted just like Boston fans if we were on the other side of the call: some would be hugely pissed and rant, some would be more accepting, all would be disappointed.

      • ultraback29 - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:05 PM

        I was talking Celsius, of course. Anyway, I know from the Chiefs fans last year it can get bad but the heartland cities are still not at the level of the Northeast.

  3. sincitybonobo - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:56 AM

    “Like a million little doorways
    All the choices we’ve made
    All the stages we’ve passed through
    All the roles we’ve played.

    For so many different connections
    Our separate paths might have made
    With every door that we opened
    Every game we played”

    -“Ghost of a Chance”, Neil Peart. 1991

    Well constructed piece, Matt. It’s part of what makes this great game so special.

  4. Jack Marshall - Oct 27, 2013 at 4:53 AM

    So tell your second-guessing colleagues to stop judging whether a manager’s or player’s decision was a good one according to what occurred afterwards. A decision can only be judged based on the circumstances known at the time. The hindsight bias in the analysis of this particular game is nauseating. Bad decisions can have good results; brilliant tactics can backfire.

    The only indefensible move in this game was Farrell not double-switching so Workman didn’t have to bat in the 8th. That was embarrassing.

  5. anxovies - Oct 27, 2013 at 5:20 AM

    Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
    And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
    That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
    A sun that is the source of all our power.
    The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
    Are moving at a million miles a day
    In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
    Of the galaxy we call the ‘Milky Way’.
    Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
    It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side.
    It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
    But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide.
    We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
    We go ’round every two hundred million years,
    And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
    In this amazing and expanding universe.

    Monty Python/Eric Idle, 1983

  6. ejannetta - Oct 27, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    Good obstruction call by the umps. Middlebrooks clearly and probably intentionally obstructed the runner from scoring from third. Middlebrooks is lying on his stomach and kicks his legs in the air trying to block the runner.

    • larrytsg - Oct 27, 2013 at 9:28 AM

      I don’t KNOW whether or not he did it on purpose, but part of me wants to think he dove (or laid down) to field the ball, and when it got by him maybe he thought that by raising his lower legs by bending at the knee would open/clear the basepath for Craig to continue.

      Of course, I’m a Sox fan. And still, I KNOW the umpires got the call correct.

  7. midjerseyfatcat - Oct 27, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    It’s the little things that a good team does under pressure that win games like this. Boston hasn’t done them but St.Louis has. Boston is also being out managed. If Boston doesn’t have a display of raw power from Ortiz and others they will not win this World Series. The teams are so close when you look at them it is unbelievable. There is a lot of emotion being displayed by both sides which makes this a World Series well worth watching.

  8. chill1184 - Oct 27, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    I’m rooting for the Red Sox to win the series but damm that had to hurt especially the chaos that happened at the Bruins games that allowed the Devils to win about an hour earlier.

    Yes I’m a Devils fan

    • matt14gg - Oct 27, 2013 at 8:21 AM

      Ha Ha, yeah that was a brutal night.

  9. matt14gg - Oct 27, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    That pretty much covers it. In 1986 John McNamara kept Bill Buckner in the game because he wanted him to be on the field to celebrate when the Red Sox won the world series. A terrible decision that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

    This time Farrell simply forgot to make an obvious defensive replacement. So in short Farrell had two chances to get an at bat for Mike Napoli. The first was late in the game when Salty came to the plate with men on base and did what he almost always does, which is strike out. Napoli should have hit there and then Ross would come in as the obvious defensive replacement. OK he blew that one, but he could have made up for it by having Napoli hit for the pitcher in the ninth. But instead, in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the world series, with the game tied, on the road, and a chance to get a run and steal a win, the guy that hit a 460 foot home run off of Justin Verlander just a week ago was left on the bench so that Brandon Workman, a pitcher who has NEVER had an at bat in the major leagues before, could hit.

    That’s terrible game management and that has nothing to do with hindsight.

  10. golfsox78 - Oct 27, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    It was the correct call. And I’m a Sox fan. Can’t direct anger or blame at the umps. Salty should have never thrown that ball to 3rd. It’s a shame that this will be the topic instead of two hard working baseball teams fighting it out. Fielding is still one of the most important parts of the game. The Cards lost game 1 because of fielding errors. The Sox lost the last 2 because of it.

  11. wranglerick - Oct 27, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    Good thing it wasn’t game 7

  12. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 27, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    And people say this game is boring!

  13. Bryz - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    You could also add that if Molina tried to run over Salty at home, then Salty has no chance of throwing the ball to 3rd.

  14. midjerseyfatcat - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    I looked at the play at third and wonder if he had to raise his legs like that in order to get up. I still can’t figure if it would have been a “natural act” to get up. The home plate ump. made the call without hesitation. That left me surprised that he didn’t have a conference with the other umps. before making a final call in a WS game that could decide the outcome of the championship.

  15. stex52 - Oct 27, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    As long as we are talking little differences, I said this elsewhere and I will say it here.

    IF Pedroia doesn’t swoop in and make a super play, Molina scores and nothing afterward ever happens. I was really impressed by that play, although it came to nothing in the overall scheme of things.

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