In a controversial ending to a phenomenal Game 3, third base umpire Jim Joyce called obstruction on Will Middlebrooks and awarded Allen Craig home plate as the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Boston Red Sox by a score of 5-4. The series is now two games to one in favor of St. Louis.
Jim Joyce was correct in calling obstruction on Middlebrooks. This is the word-for-word definition of obstruction as defined by MLB:
“OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner.”
Middlebrooks was not in possession of the ball, nor was he in the act of fielding the ball. Though some may argue he simply dove after Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s low throw, he really was lying on the ground as he watched the ball roll down the left field line. He has to make some effort to get out of the baseline.
Middlebrooks clearly impeded the progress of the runner – that’s not even a discussion. He was in the baseline without the ball, and he even appeared to lift his legs up at the exact moment Craig was attempting to step over him. Regardless of his intentions, Middlebrooks obstructed Craig’s path to home plate, and Craig clearly would have scored standing up had he not gotten tangled up with the Boston third baseman.
It is a truly heartbreaking way to lose after such a hard-fought game – and what was for five seconds a game-saving play by Dustin Pedroia – but they got the call right. All the Red Sox can do is move on to Game 4.