Stumbling Red Sox: fall into 2-1 Series deficit

The Boston Red Sox keep stumbling. Forget about getting in the

path of opponents, they can’t even stay out of their own way.

Another bad throw to third.

Another painful loss.

And now, for the first time in 27 years, the Red Sox find

themselves in a World Series deficit.

Usually you see tripping penalties on hockey ice, not baseball

infields.

The crazy 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night,

which ended with third baseman Will Middlebrooks, flat on his

stomach, raising both legs and obstructing Allen Craig, joins the

bizarre Boston lore that include Johnny Pesky holding the ball on

Harry Walker’s hit in 1946 and Bill Buckner allowing Mookie

Wilson’s grounder to through his legs in 1986.

”It’s a crying shame to lose a game like this. I’m absolutely

shocked a game of his magnitude ends on a play like that. It just

doesn’t seem right,” said Jake Peavy, whose four gritty innings

were pretty much forgotten. ”We’ve been able to come back all

year. I don’t think this is something we can’t come back from. You

just don’t expect to lose a game that way. It’s shocking.”

Thirty-eight years after an interference non-call did in the Red

Sox in World Series Game 3, an obstruction ruling finished them

off.

And now, things get really dicey.

With Boston trailing 2-1 in the Series, the Red Sox start Craig

Buchholz in Game 4, a pitcher unsure how far he can go with a

barking shoulder.

Felix Doubront, the most likely emergency starter, threw two

innings and 25 pitches on Saturday night after Jake Peavy lasted

just four innings.

”This game is not going to define our team,” Dustin Pedroia

said. ”We lost tough game. We’ll come out and play tomorrow. This

won’t stop us.”

Hope for a third Series sweep in a decade disappeared when Craig

Breslow threw wildly over third base in Game 2 and into the Fenway

Park stands, turning Matt Carpenter’s tying sacrifice fly into two

runs.

When this one ended, Middlebrooks approached the umpires and

raising his arms wide, as if to say ”What could I do?”

”He was on top of me. There was nowhere for me to go there,”

Middlebrooks said. ”If I dive and then Army-crawl to second as

soon as I hit the ground, that’s the only way I get out of the way

there.”

Back in 1975, Cincinnati pinch-hitter Ed Armbrister wasn’t

called for interference by plate umpire Larry Barnett when he

blocked Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk on a 10th-inning bunt at

Riverfront Stadium. Fisk’s throw went off the glove of shortstop

Rick Burleson, putting runners on second and third. Joe Morgan’s

RBI single gave Cincinnati a 6-5 win, and the Reds took the title

in seven games.

This time, the Red Sox overcame deficits of 2-0 and 4-2. It was

4-all in the ninth when Yadier Molina singled with one out in the

ninth off loser Brandon Workman and Craig pinch hit and lined Koji

Uehara’s first pitch down the left-field line for a double that put

runners on second and third.

With the infield in, Jon Jay hit a two-hop grounder to a diving

Pedroia at second. He made a backhand stop and threw home to

Saltalamacchia, who had the ball 15 feet before the sliding Molina

arrived at the plate.

Saltamacchia’s throw to third in a try for Craig was about 18

inches to the fair side of the base and bounced into foul

territory. Middlebrooks, reaching into fair territory, fell over

third base and Craig’s leg. And as left fielder Daniel Nava chased

down the ball, Middlebrooks, with his stomach flat on the field,

raised both legs and tripped Craig.

Third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately signaled obstruction.

Even though a sliding Craig was tagged by Saltalamacchia at the

plate following the throw by Nava, plate umpire Dana DeMuth

signaled safe and then pointed to third, making clear the

obstruction had been called.

”When I saw it on TV, from the replay, I didn’t see how it was

obstruction,” Saltalamacchia said. ”He’s laying on the ground.

Craig was actually out of the baseline, trying to jump over

him.”

All of this wound have been unnecessary had the Red Sox been

able to throw to third base without sailing the ball toward the

left-field seats. Red Sox manager John Farrell said in hindsight,

he probably should have double-switched when the pitcher’s spot

came up in the top of the ninth, which would have taken

Saltalamacchia out of the game.

This wasn’t the Red Sox of the 2000s, who got the job done. This

was the Boston of 1918-86, who found a way to lose.

Craig may have fallen at third base, but it was the Red Sox who

flopped.