In the warped winning-is-the-most-important-thing mentality that pervades all sports across all levels, losing any game can be especially disappointing. Multiply that disappointment by about a million and you might come close to empathizing with how the Boston Red Sox felt after Game 3 of the World Series, a contest the club lost 5-4 on a call made by third base umpire Jim Joyce. After it seemed like the Red Sox had recorded the third out of the ninth inning before the Cardinals scored their fifth run of the night, third baseman Will Middlebrooks was called for a rare instance of obstruction and Allen Craig, the runner who had been tagged out by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, was ruled safe. With that, the Cardinals walked off with a victory in the unlikeliest of circumstances as defensive miscues once again played a prominent role during a victory in this World Series.
However, even though the obstruction call, made correctly by the way, by Joyce might spark some debate, the true controversy would have been if the Cardinals, after holding so many advantages throughout the contest, had lost. For the game, the Cardinals out-hit the Red Sox by a wide margin, posting a batting line of .324 BA/.405 OBP/.405 SLG with a .348 wOBA, while the Red Sox bats were largely silenced by the Cardinals pitching and could only muster a hitting line of .188 BA/.297 OBP/.250 SLG with a .246 wOBA in their 37 plate appearances. Collecting more hits gave the Cardinals many more chances to score runs, as evidenced by their 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position; the Red Sox had just nine at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Cardinals hitters did not take advantage of every single run-scoring opportunity, but with the Red Sox playing fast and loose with the ball in the ninth inning, they were rewarded for the fact they continually put themselves in advantageous positions to score; the Cardinals had runners on second and third bases with one out, the result of a Yadier Molina single and an Allen Craig double, before a Red Sox throwing error and the obstruction call on Middlebrooks gave them the winning score.
Throughout the contest, the Cardinals were in control, even though the Red Sox continually came back to tie the score. It was the Cardinals who jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning after four singles against Red Sox starter Jake Peavy. They then witnessed as the Red Sox scored a run in the fifth inning and another run in the sixth inning to tie the score. The Cardinals then answered the rebuttal of the Red Sox by scoring two more runs in the seventh inning off a Matt Holliday double. Yet, the pesky Red Sox would not go completely away, scoring two runs of their own in the eighth inning. Still, even with the Red Sox showing resiliency and coming back to tie the score on two separate occasions, there were only two plays in the entire game during which the Red Sox had a higher than 50 percent chance of winning.
As is to be expected when one team so out-performs the other at the plate and has more opportunities to score runs, the Cardinals also out-pitched their Red Sox counterparts, but interestingly enough, they out-pitched them when it came to their fielding-independent statistics in addition to most of their standard ones. For the game, the Cardinals pitchers posted a 2.71 fielding-independent ERA and a 3.32 expected-fielding independent ERA; meanwhile, the Red Sox pitchers put together a 3.16 fielding-independent ERA and a 5.53 expected-fielding independent ERA. Only the fact the Red Sox pitchers did a much better stranding base runners than the Cardinals (70.6 left on-base percentage to 63.6 left on-base percentage) kept the game from getting completely out of hand.
With the multiple advantages the Cardinals held, rightfully, the outcome of the game should have been a victory for them. They were much more successful in navigating the processes of the contest and now have a 2-1 edge in the World Series to show for it. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are a club that has to find a way to right the ship after having lost the last two games of the World Series, a proposition made more difficult by not knowing which Clay Buchholz they will have on the mound in Game 4; Buchholz is currently dealing with stiffness in his pitching shoulder. Without Buchholz at his best, the Red Sox could soon be facing a 3-1 hole that might be impossible to dig out of.