I had to look a bit before I found the section of the rule book that directly applies to the end of Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night. So, I thought I would include it here.
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.
Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.
As most everyone knows, Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks made an unsuccessful dive attempt at catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s wild throw. Base runner Allen Craig of the St. Louis Cardinals made a slide into third.
As Craig noticed the ball had gotten away, he tripped over the prone third baseman, who appeared to stick his legs up as Craig was trying to get over him. Third base umpire Jim Joyce signaled obstruction, giving Craig home plate and the Cardinals the walk off 5-4 win.
Unaware of the call, Craig got up off the turf and stumbled home, where the throw arrived just before he did. At that point, the game was already over. In the umpires’ collective opinion, Craig would have scored had the obstruction not occurred. Middlebrooks’ intent or lack of intent was not a factor in the decision.
The result was a wild finish, the first ever such ruling (obstruction or interference call) to end a post-season game in MLB history, per ESPN Stats.
As painful as it was for Boston, by all appearances, the call was correct. Scanning Twitter and the web this morning, I have yet to see a national source disagree with the umpires’ ruling.