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Shoddy defense plays a huge role in first three games of World Series

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Jarrod Saltamacchia's ill-advised throw led to the winning run in Game 3.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia's ill-advised throw led to the winning run in Game 3. (USATSI)

The first three games of the 2013 World Series have had a common theme: a poor defensive play has changed the course of the game pretty drastically. Sometimes it came early in the game and other times it came late, but the mistake did eventually arrive in all three games. Let's run them down:

Game 1: Pete Kozma muffs potential double play ball

In the very first inning of Game 1, the Red Sox had men at first and second with one out when David Ortiz hit a slow grounder to second baseman Matt Carpenter, who flipped the ball to Kozma at the bag to start the potential double play. Kozma flat out missed the ball and everyone was safe. Boston had the bases loaded with one out.

Second base umpire Dana DeMuth originally said Kozma bobbled the ball on the transfer and ruled Dustin Pedroia out at second, but after an argument by Red Sox skipper John Farrell, DeMuth conferenced with the other umpires. He was quickly overruled and everyone was declared safe, which was obviously the correct call based on the replays. Mike Napoli, the very next batter, cleared the bases with a double.

Game 2: Craig Breslow throws ball into left field

The Cardinals were down 1-0 in the seventh inning but rallied to load the bases with one out. Carpenter lifted a game-tying sacrifice fly to left fielder Jonny Gomes, whose throw home was slightly off line. That allowed Jon Jay to tag up from second and head to third.

Lefty Craig Breslow retrieved the ball from behind home plate and threw to third to cut down Jay. It was obvious from the replays that he had a play at the base and at the very least, it would have been bang-bang. Instead Breslow threw the ball on the foul territory side of the base and it got past Stephen Drew. The ball went into left field and Jay scored the go-ahead and ultimately game-winning run.

Game 3: Jarrod Saltalamacchia throws ball into left field

With the score knotted at four in the ninth inning, the Cardinals set themselves up with men at second and third with only one out thanks mostly to a pinch-hit double by Allen Craig. The Red Sox brought the infield in because they had to, and Pedroia made a brilliant diving stop on Jay's hard-hit grounder to cut Yadier Molina down at the plate. It was a truly great play that will eventually be forgotten given the outcome of the game.

After tagging Molina out at home, Saltalamacchia fired down to third base in an attempt to get Craig, who was advancing from second on the play. His throw was towards the second base side of third and it got past Will Middlebrooks and went into left field. Very, very similar play to Game 2. Craig, as you surely know, tripped over Middlebrooks as he trying to score and was awarded home on an obstruction call.

The obstruction call is getting all of the attention and rightfully so. That said, after watching the replays a few times, it appeared the throw by Saltalamacchia was rather ill-advised. It didn't look like he had much of a chance to get Craig at all, at least not without a near perfect throw. It was a bad throw on top of a questionable decision. The alternative was holding onto the ball and allowing super-reliever Koji Uehara to face the punchless Kozma with two outs and a man on third.

* * *

It's important to note that each team took advantage of these defensive misplays. The Kozma error in Game 1 is forgotten if Napoli doesn't double in three runs. The poor throws by Breslow and Saltalamacchia are a non-issue if Jay and Craig decide to play it safe and remain at third base. Good teams like the Red Sox and Cardinals capitalize on these types of mistakes and so far they have been the difference through the first three games of the World Series.

 
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