What a Wonderfully Strange Game

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The game of baseball is universal, and possesses a broad appeal. It is enjoyed and followed by the masses for a variety of reasons. The current World Series has reminded me of yet another reason to enjoy this great game. The fact that literally anything can happen at any given moment, most likely when you least expect it, creates palpable excitement. Also, when watching or attending a ballgame, there is always the possibility of seeing something that has never happened before. This possibility, more than any other sport, contributes to the mysticism of baseball.

Game 3 of the 2013 Fall Classic between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals has provided such an example.

With the series tied one game apiece, Game 3 was obviously critical, and playing at home, St. Louis jumped out to an early lead. Boston fought back though, as they did several times on this night. After the Cardinals scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to take a 4-2 lead, the Red Sox got them right back in the eighth. This tied the game up at four, and set the stage for a truly bizarre ending.

St. Louis had runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the ninth, and thoroughly dominant Boston closer Koji Uehara was facing John Jay. With the winning run 90 feet away, and the infield drawn in, Jay hit a hard ground ball to second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who make a ridiculous diving stop and threw home to cut down Yadier Molina at the plate. Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia then threw down to third, as Allen Craig was attempting to advance. This is where things got a bit unusual.

The throw got past third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement. As Craig attempted to get up and take off for home, he tripped over Middlebrooks, who was still lying on the ground. Craig did eventually rise and run to the plate, where he would have been out, but the rare obstruction call was confirmed and he was deemed safe. This touched off a wild scene, creating a combination of confusion and celebration amongst the participants.

The fact that it was clearly obstruction on the part of Middlebrooks did not alleviate the odd nature of the moment. Never before had a World Series game ended in such a fashion. The rule itself is rather obscure, and rarely occurs, but in this case was correctly applied by the umpires. This did not prevent the head scratching that followed, particularly from the Red Sox. What an absolutely brutal way to lose any game, let alone Game 3 of the World Series.

Rule 7.06(a)-Obstruction reads as follows.

“When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal ‘Obstruction.’ If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batterrunner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out.”

Well, there you go.

Actually, if you can get past the typically stilted rulebook language and jargon, it makes perfect sense. The rule is interesting in that it gives the umpire freedom to make a judgment call on whether or not the runner would have scored if the obstruction had not taken place. This aspect of the rule could conceivably cause some issues, although in this case they were absolutely correct. In addition, obstruction is called regardless of the intent of the player who causes the disruption.

That was just total chaos, and an example of what you could miss if you make the mistake of tuning out or leaving the end of a baseball game. If this is not enough, another World Series first occurred the very next night. In the bottom of the ninth of Game 4, with the Red Sox in front 4-2, Uehara picked off rookie pinch runner Kolten Wong at first base to end the game. This happened with Carlos Beltran standing at the plate, representing the tying run. Of course, a World Series game had never ended this way either.

You just never know.

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Posted on October 29, 2013, in 2013, Cardinals, Red Sox and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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