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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.

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