ST. LOUIS -- This one's going to leave a mark.
The Red Sox have made a habit of bouncing back from losses all season long, but their 5-4 loss in Game 3 of the World Series Saturday night is going to put their resilliency to the test like never before.
It's one thing to lose a one-run game, one that you needed.
It's another thing altogether to have a game taken from you, as the Red Sox believed happened at Busch Stadium.
Taken not by the other team, but the umpiring crew who ruled that, accidentally or not, Will Middlebrooks obstructed baserunner Allen Craig at third base and awarded the St. Louis Cardinals the winning run.
It's the first World Series game to end on an obstruction call, but it's far from the last you'll hear about it.
With one out and runners at second and third in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth and the infield drawn in, Koji Uehara got Jon Jay to hit a grounder which Dustin Pedroia, sprawling, stabbed and collected. Pedroia set himself and threw to the plate to cut down lead runner Yadier Molina.
But when catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia spied Allen Craig going from second to third, he uncorked a wild throw, which skipped past Middlebrooks.
As Craig attempted to scramble to the plate, he attempted to vault over Middlebrooks, still on the ground. Intentionally or not, Middlebrooks lifted his legs, impeding Craig for an instant.
Daniel Nava's throw to the plate beat the gimpy Craig "by three feet'' according to Pedroia, but already, third-base umpire Jim Joyce had ruled obstruction, and home plate umpire Dana DeMuth ruled Craig safe with the winning run.
"Tough way to have a game end,'' said John Farrell, "particularly of this significance, when Will is trying to dive inside [the baseline] to stop the throw. I don't know how he gets out of the way when he's lying on the ground. And when Craig trips over him, I guess, by the letter of the rule, you could say it's obstruction.
"Like I said, that's a tough pill to swallow.''
''I dive for the ball there,'' said Middlebrooks. "There's really nowhere for me to go. I go to get up. He's on top of me. There's really nowhere for me to go there."
But according to the umpires, that was irrelevant.
Said Joyce: "With the defensive player on the ground, without intent or intent, it's still obstruction.''
And it's still a brutally tough loss for the Red Sox to swallow.
This was, after all, a game in which the Cardinals took batting practice off Jake Peavy in the first inning, scoring two runs after five hitters came to the plate.
The Sox didn't get a baserunner until the fourth, but eventually tied it on a fielder's choice in the fifth and a run-scoring single by Nava in the sixth.
When the Cards got two runs on a double by Matt Holliday in the seventh, the Sox faced the daunting task of having two innings to rally against the Cardinals' flamethrowing duo of Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal . . . which, improbably, they did, using another fielder's choice and a single behind the second-base bag by rookie Xander Bogaerts.
Then it unraveled.
"I didn't see obstruction,'' said Saltalamacchia. "Craig was actually out of the baseline, trying to jump over [Middlebrooks].''
"I don't think you finish a World Series game like that," said a stunned David Ortiz.
"It's a joke that call decides a World Series game that two teams are pouring their heart out on the field,'' fumed Peavy. "That's a crying shame."
The Red Sox may not like it, and like it even less under the circumstances which saw them lose a critical World Series game. But the game is over and there's nothing the Red Sox can do get it back.
If they're smart, they'll focus forward, the way one of their players, across the clubhouse, was already doing.
"This game's not going to define our team," vowed Pedroia. "This won't stop us.''
We shall see.