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Obstruction Call Gives Cardinals A World Series Lead


The St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox take the field again tonight for game 4 of the World Series. The two teams are going to be hard-pressed to match the emotion and the drama, not to mention the confusion, of last night's game 3. The Cardinals won 5-to-4 on a rare call by the umpires. NPR's Tom Goldman has this report from St. Louis.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Up until the truly wacky ending, it was one of those games - chock full of action, great plays, bad plays, great moves by a manager then boneheaded moves. St. Louis went ahead by two runs twice, and the Red Sox came back each time. One of those games - until it became a game, unlike any other.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Just curious if any of you guys remember a game ending in this way, ending on this particular call in any of your experiences.



GOLDMAN: Those were umpires John Hirschbeck and Jim Joyce answering in an umpire press conference after the game. Umps rarely talk, but this time they had to, because they were the guys who determined the outcome.


GOLDMAN: The drama was building in the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied 4-4 and the home team threatening. St. Louis outfielder John Jay was batting and runners on second and third. Allen Craig was the runner on second. Here's what happened next, as heard on the Fox broadcast.


JOE BUCK: Jay grounds one. Pedroia makes the play. Throw home - two out - over to third, it gets away. Allen Craig is going to come to the plate. Here's the throw. He is...


GOLDMAN: As Joe Buck's - he is - hung in the air, the fireworks booming at Busch Stadium finished the sentence. He is - safe. And while the celebration was on, no one really knew what the heck had happened. Not even the guy who scored the winning run. In the noisy St. Louis clubhouse afterwards, Allen Craig was asked when was the moment he knew he was safe at home?


ALLEN CRAIG: Uh, when I saw my entire team running out on the field.

GOLDMAN: The men who knew exactly what was happening were the umpires. After the play started with Boston throwing out one runner at home plate, Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamachia threw to third base to get Craig. But it was a bad throw and it got past a diving Will Middlebrooks, the Boston third baseman. Umpire Jim Joyce had his eyes glued to the play as Craig slid into Middlebrooks and then popped up.


JOYCE: And when he tried to advance to home plate, the feet were up in the air and he tripped over Middlebrooks right there and immediately and instinctually, I called obstruction.

GOLDMAN: Which meant Craig was awarded home plate and the winning run, even though he was thrown out at the plate. The umpire stressed the call was made regardless of intent. Middlebrooks said afterwards there was nothing he could've done to get out of Craig's way. Red Sox Manager John Farrell called the strange outcome a tough pill to swallow, and noted Saltalamachia's bad throw to third was part of a worrisome trend.

JOHN FARRELL, MANAGER, BOSTON RED SOX: We have forced a couple of throws at third base that have proven costly. Tonight was a costly throw.

GOLDMAN: The other errant throw to third came in game 2, and it also allowed the winning St. Louis run to score. Are the mishaps unfortunate coincidence or is third base becoming Boston's Bermuda Triangle? Who knows what answers await - tonight. Tom Goldman, NPR News, St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
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