The biggest crowd in Busch Stadium III's history saw a whole lot of baseball Saturday night.
They may have to spend most of Sunday trying to digest it.
The St. Louis Cardinals found the weirdest, wildest way to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, giving them a 5-4 victory over Boston and a 2-1 lead in the World Series.
This one, even before the bizarre finish, was a crazy-quilt affair:
The Cards led 2-0 in the first, but should have led by more than that.
The Red Sox fought back, with runs in the fifth and sixth.
The Cards replied with two in the seventh.
The Red Sox answered with two in the eighth.
And then the Cards won in as strange a fashion as you can imagine, on an obstruction call against Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks on runner Allen Craig with two out in the ninth.
Lying on the ground after diving for an errant throw, Middlebrooks got tangled up with Craig, and the Cardinal runner was awarded home plate.
Just like that, the Cardinals lead in a series they can close out with wins Sunday and Monday night at Busch Stadium.
The oddest play of an increasingly odd series came at the game's end Saturday, with Yadier Molina at third and Craig at second with one out. Jon Jay hit sharply to a drawn-in second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who threw home to retire Molina trying to score.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia then threw to third, with Middlebooks diving to his left in a vain attempt to catch the ball as Craig slid into the bag. The ball rolled into left field as Craig -- trying to navigate on a sprained left foot -- struggled to his feet and tripped over Middlebrooks before trying to go home.
Third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately pointed at Middlebrooks, signaling obstruction and awarding Craig home plate.
"When the play developed after Saltalamacchia threw the ball at third base, after the ball had gone straight through, and Allen had slid into third and stood up to attempt to go to home plate, everything was off right there," Joyce said. "And when he tried to advance to home plate, (Middlebrooks') feet were up in the air, and he tripped over Middlebrooks right there.
"And immediately and instinctually I called obstruction."
The crazy play ended the 3 hour, 54-minute marathon before 47,432 fans, the biggest (and maybe most confused) crowd in the ballpark's eight years of operation.
"Not sure how it happened," Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal said. "I just know that we won. It was a great play by Allen, obviously, with the condition that he's in, putting in that effort for the team.
"(I'm) happy it worked out in our favor."
The Cardinals have now won the last two games in this series because of ill-advised throws to third base by Boston players:
* Reliever Craig Breslow threw over the third baseman's head on a play at the base in the seventh inning of Game 2, allowing Jay to score the third run in the Cards' 4-2 win.
* Saltalamacchia threw to third for no reason Saturday -- Craig was already almost at the base -- and that led to the obstruction call that gave the Cards their victory in Game 3.
"It's a bang-bang play," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "As it turns out, we have forced a couple throws that have proven costly. Tonight was a costly throw. ...
"I can't say the legs were being raised in an effort to impede his progress. But again, it's a tough way to have a game end. He's on the ground. If he tries to raise up, then he's clearly getting in his way for Craig to try to advance to home plate.
"But he got tangled up with him and that was the call."
Joyce and the rest of the umpiring crew said they'd never seen a game end on that kind of play. But he said it didn't matter whether Middlebrooks intended to interfere with Craig or not. If the fielder is in the way of the runner, the umpire said, it's interference.
"The rule is that the runner has every right to go to home plate (on) that particular play unobstructed, without any liability," Joyce said. "He doesn't have to get out of the way ... unfortunately, the defensive player was there."
Joe Ostermeier, chairman of the St. Louis chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, has written about the Cardinals for the Belleville News-Democrat since their playoff run in 1985. He can be reached at (618) 239-2512, or at email@example.com.