• World Series

Cardinals lead 2-1 after obstruction call

ESPN staff
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Allen Craig scored the winning run of Game Three of the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals on an obstruction call © Getty Images
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The Cardinals rushed to the plate to congratulate Allen Craig. The Red Sox stormed home to argue with the umpires.

The fans, well, they seemed too startled to know what to do. Who'd ever seen an obstruction call to end a World Series game? No one.

In perhaps the wildest finish imaginable, the rare ruling against third baseman Will Middlebrooks allowed Craig to score with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and lifted St. Louis over Boston 5-4 on Saturday night for a 2-1 advantage.

A walk-off win? More like a trip-off. "I'm in shock right now," St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina said. So was most everyone at Busch Stadium after the mad-cap play. "Tough way to have a game end, particularly of this significance," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

After an umpire's call was the crux of Game One and a poor Boston throw to third base decided Game Two, the key play on this night combined both elements.

Molina singled with one out in the ninth off losing pitcher Brandon Workman. Craig, just back from a sprained foot, pinch-hit and lined Koji Uehara's first pitch into left field for a double that put runners on second and third.

With the infield in, Jon Jay hit a grounder to diving second baseman Dustin Pedroia. He made a sensational stab and threw home to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who tagged out the sliding Molina. But then Saltalamacchia threw wide of third trying to get Craig. The ball glanced off Middlebrooks' glove and Craig's body, caroming into foul territory down the line.

After the ball got by, Middlebrooks, lying on his stomach, raised both legs and tripped Craig, slowing him down as he tried to take off for home.

"I just know I have to dive for that ball. I'm on the ground. There's nowhere for me to go," Middlebrooks said. Third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately signalled obstruction.

"With the defensive player on the ground, without intent or intent, it's still obstruction," Joyce said. "You'd probably have to ask Middlebrooks that one, if he could have done anything. But that's not in our determination."

Craig kept scrambling. "He was in my way. I couldn't tell you if he tried to trip me or not. I was just trying to get over him," he said.

Left fielder Daniel Nava retrieved the ball and made a strong throw home, where Saltalamacchia tagged a sliding Craig in time. But plate umpire Dana DeMuth signalled he was safe and then pointed to third, making clear the obstruction had been called.

"I was excited at first because we nailed the guy at home. I wasn't sure why he was called safe," Middlebrooks said. "We're all running to home to see why he was called safe. We didn't think there was any obstruction there, obviously. As I'm getting up, he trips over me. I don't know what else to say."

Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday said: "You hate for it to end on a somewhat controversial play. You would like for it to end a little cleaner, but that's part of it."

Joyce and crew chief John Hirschbeck said they'd never seen a similar game-ending incident.

A neat coincidence, though: In 2004, umpire Paul Emmel called obstruction on Seattle shortstop Jose Lopez, ruling he had blocked Carl Crawford's sightline and giving Tampa Bay the game-ending run. Emmel was the first base umpire on this night, too.

The umpires all agreed Joyce got it right. Until now, he was best known for making an admittedly wrong call in 2010 that denied Detroit's Armando Galarraga a perfect game.

Game Four is on Sunday night, with Clay Buchholz starting for Boston against Lance Lynn.

To some Cardinals fans, the call meant long overdue payback. They're still smarting from Don Denkinger's missed call that helped cost them the 1985 World Series.

To some Red Sox fans, the tangle might've brought back painful memories from the 1975 World Series. In Game Three, Cincinnati's Ed Armbrister wasn't called for interference by plate umpire Larry Barnett when he blocked Boston catcher Carlton Fisk on a 10th-inning bunt. Fisk made a wild throw, setting up Joe Morgan's winning single.

This article originally appeared on ESPN.com
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