Adam Wainwright had the best seat in the house for the craziest play of the baseball season.
And he missed it.
"The funny thing was I didn't see him throw it away," Wainwright said Sunday afternoon, 16 hours after the St. Louis Cardinals won Game 3 of the World Series on an obstruction call that allowed the winning run to score on the last play of the game. "I saw (Dustin) Pedroia make the great play, throw it home and get Yadier (Molina) out. I thought that was the end of it, so I turned my back."
With Molina at third and Allen Craig at second, Jon Jay hit the ball sharply to a drawn-in Pedroia, who threw home as Jarrod Saltalamacchia tagged out Molina. The catcher tried to get Craig racing to third, but his throw to third baseman Will Middlebrooks rolled into left field. Craig jumped up to make his way home, only to trip over Middlebrooks.
Third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately called obstruction, allowing Craig to score even though he appeared to be thrown out at the plate as the play was allowed to run its course.
"All of a sudden people started running out on the field," Wainwright said, "and so -- I didn't know what happened, but I was running out on the field, too. And I got out about halfway out there and saw Craig out by a couple of steps, and started tiptoeing backwards back into the dugout, and (the umpire) called him safe.
"And I thought, wow, I think I've just witnessed the worst call in the history of the game at home plate, only to find out there was obstruction. So there were four or five times I didn't know what the heck was going on."
Rest assured, Cards fans: Wainwright is fully caught up on things and ready to pitch in Game 5 Monday night.
The Series rests with a pitcher not at all happy with his outing in Game 1, when the Red Sox whipsawed the Cardinals and their ace in an 8-1 loss.
Wainwright gave up five runs (three earned) on six hits in five innings, walking one and striking out four.
"I honestly don't know why my mechanics were as bad as they were, why my delivery was off as much as it was," said Wainwright, 19-9 in the regular season and 2-2 this October. "But I feel like I've put a lot of good reps in front of the mirror, and watching film and feeling my delivery again, learning the basics all over again."
He was particularly out of sorts the first two innings in Game 1, walking the leadoff man and letting him score in a three-run first. He also called for and then let a popup drop between him and Molina to open the second; that miscue that led to the first of two runs that inning.
"I threw maybe four or five quality pitches the whole time I was pitching," Wainwright said. "Luckily (I could) come away with just a few runs; it could have been 10 instead of five."
If he was too keyed up in Game 1, he promises a more attuned approach in Game 5.
"I learned that they hit mistakes," Wainwright said of the Red Sox. "And I learned that if I make mistakes in the middle of the plate up in the zone, they're going to hit them."
As much as anyone, the 32-year-old Wainwright wants a hand in this World Series title for the Cardinals. He threw the last pitch of their 2006 playoff run, striking out Detroit's Brandon Inge for the Cards' 10th World Series title, then sat out the 2011 Fall Classic because of Tommy John surgery before the season.
"I would never say it was bittersweet," Wainwright said of 2011, "just for the fact that that doesn't sound quite right as far as a team winning the World Series. There's no bitterness to that.
I wish I could have been a part of it. But it was still pretty sweet to be there, to experience that. But it does add motivation for this year, the importance of bringing it home here (for our fans).
Best seat in the house or not, we'll be watching.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.