Don’t blame Will Middlebrooks for the fluky obstruction call that ended Game 3. Don’t blame umpire Jim Joyce, who made the gutsy choice to call it and give the Cardinals a 5-4 victory.
Blame the guy who made the bad throw in the first place: Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The struggling Saltalamacchia shouldn’t have even been in the game; Red Sox manager John Farrell admitted afterwards that he blew it by not double-switching in David Ross for Salty when he brought in Brandon Workman to pitch the bottom of the eighth. Salty had just grounded out with two on to end the top of the eighth.
There was also a great case for pinch-hitting for Saltalamacchia against left-hander Kevin Siegrist to start the seventh. Salty struggles against lefties anyway, and he’s been awful against everyone of late, striking out 19 times in the postseason. He fanned in that at-bat, and then Farrell pinch-hit Will Middlebrooks for Stephen Drew with one out and Jonny Gomes for the pitcher’s spot with two outs. If Farrell was going to go hog wild with pinch-hitters anyway, he should have had Gomes lead off and Ross bat for the pitcher.
On the crucial play in the ninth, Salty’s initial mistake was to throw the ball to third in the first place. One of the most effective relievers in the league was on the mound in Koji Uehara. One of the worst hitters in the league, Pete Kozma, was due to bat next with two outs. Even without taking that into consideration, the smart play was to put the ball in his back pocket. Given the matchup, it was a no-brainer.
But Salty made the throw, and it was a bad one. It was the second straight loss for the Red Sox swinging on an errant throw to third base. In Game 2, that throw was made by Craig Breslow from behind home plate. But the ball only made it to Breslow because Salty decided to keep his foot on home trying to handle Jonny Gomes’ relay instead of coming off the base to handle it. So, Salty had quite a hand in that loss as well. Throw in his struggles at the plate, and it seems unlikely that we’ll see him back in the lineup in Game 4. The free-agent-to-be will also sit out Game 5 with Jon Lester pitching (Ross has turned into his personal catcher), so it’s possible Salty has made his last start for the Red Sox.