St. Louis, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Cardinals have the upper hand in the World Series after a crazy ending to Game 3 at Busch Stadium.
Will Middlebrooks was called for obstructing Allen Craig's path to home plate, and the Cardinals were awarded the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night.
Yadier Molina singled off Brandon Workman (0-1), and Craig, in a pinch-hit role, doubled to the left field corner against Koji Uehara.
Jon Jay then hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who threw home to get Molina. After catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw low to third to try to get Craig, the ball caromed off Middlebrooks' glove and Craig's arm and bounced away.
As Craig -- running on a sprained left foot -- got up to run home, Middlebrooks, lying on his stomach, raised his legs and Craig tripped over them. Saltalamacchia applied the tag at home on Craig after the throw from left fielder Daniel Nava, who was backing up the play, but third base umpire Jim Joyce ruled Middlebrooks impeded Craig's progress.
Home plate umpire Dana DeMuth pointed at third to confirm the obstruction call had already been made. It was the first walk-off win via an obstruction call in World Series history.
"I had to do the obstacle course to get home," said Craig, who was carried off the field after the final play. "I was going as fast as I could for the first time in a couple of months. It was just sore when I tried to get up."
It gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 scheduled for Sunday night.
"I don't know how he gets out of the way when he's lying on the ground," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "I guess by the letter of the rule you could say it's obstruction. That's a tough pill to swallow."
Middlebrooks said he didn't raise his legs intentionally.
"What am I supposed to do there?" the Red Sox third baseman said. "I have to go down for that ball. I'm not in the baseline and five feet inside of it, maybe more. He (Joyce) said I have to make an attempt to get out of there."
Joyce said he didn't make the call because Middlebrooks raised his legs; it was because he didn't leave a clear path for the runner to get to home plate.
"The feet didn't really play too much into that because he was still in the area where the baserunner needs to go to advance to home plate," Joyce said. "The baserunner has every right to go unobstructed to home plate.
"Unfortunately for Middlebrooks, he was right there and there was contact. He (Craig) could not advance to home plate naturally."
It ended a game that had several momentum changes.
Matt Holliday's two-run double down the left-field line boosted the Cardinals to a 4-2 lead in the seventh, but Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal (1-0) couldn't hold it.
Rookie infielder Xander Bogaerts had an RBI single during a two-run eighth inning to help the Red Sox even the score.
Jacoby Ellsbury singled and Shane Victorino was hit with a pitch to start the eighth. With one out, David Ortiz was intentionally walked. Rosenthal then faced Nava, who hit a sharp bouncer to Kolten Wong, just into the game as a defensive replacement at second base. Wong's stop from his knees resulted in a force out at second, but Ellsbury scored when the Cardinals were unable to complete the double play.
Bogaerts then hit a bouncer that caromed high off the glove of shortstop Pete Kozma and into center field to send Victorino home. Saltalamacchia grounded out to second to keep the game tied.
The Cardinals scored twice off Jake Peavy in the first inning and had a chance to blow the game open in the fourth after loading the bases with nobody out, but couldn't get the clutch hit.
Molina and Jay sandwiched singles around a David Freese walk in the inning but Peavy caught Kozma looking at strike three and Cardinals starter Joe Kelly popped out to second. Matt Carpenter then popped out, also in the infield.
Bogaerts tripled to center to lead off the frame and eventually scored when pinch-hitter Mike Carp beat out a potential double-play grounder.
Victorino walked to start the sixth. With one out, Ortiz grounded a single into right off lefty reliever Randy Choate to put men at the corners. Seth Maness then entered from the bullpen and Nava lined a single to left to knock home the run that tied it at 2-2.
In the seventh, Craig Breslow allowed a Carpenter infield hit and then grazed Carlos Beltran with a pitch on his elbow. Holliday doubled to left off Junichi Tazawa as the ball went under the glove of a diving Middlebrooks.
Peavy allowed six hits and fanned four over four innings and Kelly struck out six in 5 1/3 frames ... The Cardinals have been up 2-1 in the World Series on 10 previous occasions and have won the World Series eight of those times ... The Cardinals have not lost a game this postseason when scoring first (8-0) ... The two teams combined to use 12 pitchers, tying a World Series record for a nine-inning game.