It came forth within half an hour after Game Three ended with Yadier Molina in self-professed shock, Allen Craig sprawled across the plate in disbelief, the Red Sox slinking to their clubhouse, the Cardinals whooping it up between their dugout and the plate area. All because of an unusual but no-questions-asked correct obstruction call.
Even if he was lost to explain what just happened, manager John Farrell took it like a man.
Then, he said if he could have one non-move back among several, he’d like to have pinch hit for rookie relief pitcher Brandon Workman with Mike Napoli. “In hindsight,” said the skipper who’d done so well in stablising his clubhouse in 2013 following the nightmare of 2012, “having Workman hit against [St. Louis closer Trevor] Rosenthal is a mismatch, I recognize it, but we needed more than one inning out of Workman.”
Farrell should be thankful that this was only World Series Game Three. There’s still time and room enough for his Red Sox to put the Saturday night fright behind them. But if they don’t, or if the Cardinals don’t let them, that comment is going to enter the Red Sox Book of Infamy post haste.
We needed more than one inning out of Workman. If the Red Sox don’t heed second baseman Dustin Pedroia (This game’s not going to define our team, by any means), We needed more than one inning out of Workman is going to take a place in that chapter called “Words to Die By,” where you’ll find, among others:
The elements are against the lefthander today.—Joe McCarthy, explaining to Mel Parnell why journeyman Denny Galehouse would start the tiebreaker against the Indians, for the 1948 pennant, over Parnell, who’d been 3-1 with a no-decision against the Tribe that season.
Lonborg and champagne.—Dick Williams, manager of the 1967 Cinderella Sox, explaining his plan for Game Seven, which put a further fire into a different team of Cardinals only too eager to pounce on a pitcher unaccustomed to going on two days’ rest.
The kid’s got ice water in his veins.—Don Zimmer, explaining why nervous rookie Bobby Sprowl was the better choice than veteran lefthander Luis Tiant—with Bill Lee (lifetime 12-5 record against the Yankees to that point) in Zimmer’s doghouse—when it came to stopping the so-called Boston Massacre and, ultimately, keeping a surging zoo full of Yankees at bay instead of ultimately forcing a single-game division title playoff.
My pitcher told me he couldn’t go any further.—John McNamara, trying to excuse lifting blistered but still willing and dealing Roger Clemens before Game Six, 1986 Series, got to the tenth inning. For which Clemens, it was reported widely enough, had to be restrained physically from disassembling the manager.
Pedro Martinez has been our man all year long and in situations like that, he’s the one we want on the mound over anybody we can bring in out of that bullpen.—Grady Little, explaining his commitment to Martinez’s heart when his tank was on empty, in the bottom of the eighth, Game Seven, 2003 American League Championship Series.
We needed more than one inning out of Workman.
With the best closer in baseball for 2013 in the wings and ready to go, you need another inning out of Workman, whose lineup spot is due up in the top of the ninth and who’s never swung a bat in a major league game at all to this point.
If nothing else, Game Three has the potential of jogging a lot of managers out of the still-stubborn mindset that says you can’t use your closer—forget whether it was a save situation—for more than three outs. Especially in a tied game, World Series or otherwise, where you have the excellent chance of going to a tenth inning with Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz due to hit.
And, by the way, you have one of the best postseason bats in the business on the bench with experience enough to handle even Trevor Rosenthal’s artillery. A bat that crunched two formidable Detroit fastballs to help you get to this World Series in the first place.
Farrell has also said that, given a do-over, he might have batted Napoli for Workman, then sent David Ross out to catch and Napoli to first base to spell Ortiz. Or, he might have let Workman hit, still, but sent Ross out to catch, Napoli out to first, and let Workman hit in the cleanup spot: “I felt like if we get into an extended situation, which that game was looking like it was going to,” he said, “we needed to hold Nap back in the event that spot came up again.”
He really wanted to go to the bottom of the ninth without his absolute bullpen stopper on the mound and then go to the tenth inning without Ortiz in the lineup? Napoli may swing a big bat but Napoli isn’t David Ortiz, the man with the extraterrestrial gift for big things off big swings late in the game or in extra innings.
Would it have crossed Farrell’s mind to bat Napoli for Workman, then send Napoli to first base and move Ortiz to left field, giving starting left fielder Daniel Nava—who’d done yeoman’s work all night including driving home two of the four Red Sox runs by hook (a base hit) and crook (hitting into a forceout at second base)—the rest of the night off, and sending Uehara out to start the bottom of the ninth and Ross out to catch him?
Apparently, that scenario got no further into Farrell’s software than the thought of putting Jon Jay on once the Cardinals had second and third with one out. Workman, the desperately needed young man, opened the St. Louis ninth by getting Matt Adams to strike out violently on what should have been ball two, but he surrendered Molina’s single on a soft line to right, taking advantage of the Red Sox in the no-doubles defense.
Then Farrell lifted Workman for Koji Uehara. Of course, poor Middlebrooks didn’t help things along when he failed even to knock down Craig’s first-pitch tracer up the line, on a dive that wasn’t so distant he couldn’t have gotten his glove on the ball. It would have kept things to first and second with one out.
Since it didn’t, Farrell’s next move should have been anything but atomic physics. Jay may be a lifetime .296 hitter but the Cardinals’ center fielder is having a bad postseason at the plate to date otherwise. Pete Kozma on deck’s a lifetime .217 hitter, and the Cardinals’ shortstop is having a worse postseason at the plate. Even the Cardinals might have conceded putting Jay on equaled double play coming.
But there was no such move forthcoming. And Jay bounced one up the right side of the infield grass onto which Pedroia dove like a starving cat. Just as alertly, the second baseman fired home. Molina was a fried Redbird at the plate.
Would it have played differently had Ross and not Saltalamacchia been behind the plate? We’ll never know, realistically, even if we think going in that Ross probably would have known not to try throwing to third even with the compromised Craig heading there. You concede Craig the base and pitch to Kozma. First and third, two outs. It’s still all but guaranteed that Kozma’s going to end the inning with the game going to a tenth.
But Saltalamacchia picked the wrong time for deja vu all over again. Game Two saw the Cardinals’ tiebreaker come home after Saltalamacchia couldn’t get to Jonny Gomes’s throw home, off a sacrifice fly, and reliever Craig Breslow backing things up grabbed the ball and threw wild to third, enabling Jay to score.
And on Saturday night, Middlebrooks, who has said since that he couldn’t get out of Craig’s way, though he hasn’t yet explained why he couldn’t get his legs all the way down, fell trying to catch Saltalamacchia’s throw that shouldn’t have been thrown. Nava over from left field to back up that errant throw had Craig cold at the plate when Middlebrooks’s legs failed him and tripped Craig.
“If the rulebook says obstruction, you tip your cap and walk off the field and take it like a man.” Thus spoke Saltalamacchia himself after the game, one of the few among the shell-shocked Red Sox Saturday night who seemed willing to take it thus.
“Fielding misplays and managerial mistakes once haunted the franchise, and the championships of 2004 and 2007 have not immunized the modern Red Sox from repeating the sins of their ancestors.” Thus wrote Tyler Kepner in The New York Times.
The same Tyler Kepner who interviewed John McNamara, two years ago, after the Cardinals yanked back from two last-strike Game Six moments and went on to win the Series. Kepner quoted McNamara thus: “Dave Stapleton has taken enough shots at me since that he didn’t get in that ballgame, but Dave Stapleton’s nickname was Shakey. And you know what that implies. I didn’t want him playing first base to end that game, and it was not any sentimental thing that I had for Billy Buck.”
We needed more than one inning out of Workman.
Words—if the Red Sox can’t shake off the Saturday night blights—to die by.