ST. LOUIS — Before he tripped over Will Middlebrooks, stumbled home and bellyflopped at the plate — before an obstruction call decided Game 3 of the World Series in the St. Louis Cardinals' favor — Allen Craig stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth.
And he came through in a big way. Craig, who has been excluded from playing defense because he's still recovering from a tendon injury in the middle of his left foot, lined a double to left against Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara that put two runners in scoring position. Yadier Molina, who had singled against Brandon Workman a batter previous, stood on third as a result.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," Craig said of his first-pitch swing at an 88 mph fastball by Uehara that drifted over the middle of the plate.
And though Molina was out at home after Dustin Pedroia made a heroic play on Jon Jay's sharp grounder with the infield playing close, Craig was able to score because of an obstruction call by umpire Jim Joyce after an errant throw by Jarrod Saltalamacchia led to an entanglement. Even though Craig was tagged out at home, he already was safe. And lying flat on his tummy.
Teammate Matt Carpenter called it Craig's "Kirk Gibson-esque" moment. Matt Holliday jokingly rolled his eyes at the comparison.
"I don't know; Kirk Gibson hit it over the fence," Holliday said.
Not only that, but Gibson didn't make another appearance in the 1988 World Series. It ended up not costing the Dodgers, who won in five games. Over the course of the Series, even a few more at-bats by Craig could sway the results in St. Louis' favor. But the Cardinals have been cautious with Craig, even carefully limiting the amount of time he takes grounders, so as not to incur any setbacks. Yet, it's possible his adventure on the bases will force him out of Game 4 and beyond.
Cards manager Mike Matheny might regret not using a pinch runner for Craig (though it probably would have been a pitcher). But it all will have been worth it for the Cardinals — as long as they win the Series.
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