Everyone will remember the obstruction call that ended Game Three. Some will remember Brandon Workman being allowed to hit in the ninth inning. That decision by Farrell was curious and probably correctly questioned with Koji Uehara in the bullpen. But none of Farrell’s decisions worked out in the game–even the ones that were not questioned.
The one that stands out to me was Will Middlebrooks pinch hitting for Stephen Drew in the top of the seventh. You really cannot find fault with Farrell’s call here. Drew has been missing in action at the plate for most of this post season. His only hit in this series was that silly popup that fell between Molina and Wainwright in Game One. Drew has been a strikeout machine.
Sure, you could argue that Middlebrooks has not been much better and that would be a valid point. But Drew had no chance, so you cannot fault Farrell.
Unfortunately, the decision moved Xander Bogaerts to short and put Middlebrooks at third and that came back to bite the Red Sox. Middlebrooks did not hit any better than Drew. Middlebrooks is probably not as good at third base as Bogaerts and Bogaerts might not have the game reactions that Stephen Drew has at short. And thus we have the bottom of the seventh.
With Bogaerts at short and Middlebrooks at third, the Cardinals started the bottom of the seventh against Craig Breslow who had just been brought into the game. Breslow has not had a stitch of luck in this series thus far. The first batter Breslow faced was Matt Carpenter.
Carpenter checked his swing on a Breslow offering and the ball squirted off towards short. Bogaerts did not get a good jump on the ball and his throw to first was late. There is no sense blaming David Ortiz at first for not scooping Bogaert’s low throw because Carpenter would have been safe anyway.
Does Drew make that play? Probably. Does Drew react quicker than Bogaerts did? Maybe, maybe not.. But Bogaerts did not make the play and Farrell’s move does not work out.
The next batter should have gone differently. It was Carlos Beltran batting right-handed. And being a modern hitter, Beltran was allowed to wear this protective elbow gear while batting. I do not like them and feel such devices give the batter more comfort and an advantage at the plate. Breslow’s offering was inside. Beltran made no attempt to get out of the way. Slow-motion replay showed Beltran even moving his elbow slightly into the path of the pitch.
Beltran should not have been awarded first. But he was to make it first and second with no outs. That brought Matt Holliday to the plate and Farrell’s decision bit him again. There is no doubt that Holliday hit a hard shot toward the line at third off of new reliever, Junichi Tawaza. But Middlebrooks seemed flat-footed on the play and though the shot was within a few feet of him, he could not make even a stop on the play. Both Carpenter and Beltran scored on the double that resulted. Bogaerts might have made a play on that smash.
Personally, I believe both of those plays, the one from Carpenter’s check swing and the one from Holliday’s smash, might have gone differently with the original infield set in place. Farrell did not get any offense from the move and seemed to get worse defense. But we are not done yet.
Flash forward to the bottom of the ninth when we get that unbelievable finish to the game on the obstruction call at third. That call never comes into play if Middlebrooks catches Saltalamacchia’s throw. It looked like Craig would have been safe at third. But that would be it and there is no obstruction call.
Saltalamacchia’s throw was wide. But it was catchable. Middlebrooks did not catch it. Would Bogaerts have caught it? I think so. Middlebrooks made two nonathletic plays at third. Xander Bogaerts is much more athletic than Middlebrooks. We will never know, of course, but that is my feeling on how things turned out.
Brandon Workman batting in the ninth? While the above decisions did not work out for Farrell, they at least can be defended to try to get some offense. But Workman batting for himself was indefensible. That never should have happened.