Sore Craig tallies fourth World Series hit in pinch
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' concerns that Allen Craig's trip around the bases in Game 3 could limit his availability for the rest of the World Series had calmed by Sunday, after an X-ray on Craig's left foot came back negative.
Craig, who just resumed playing after suffering a Lisfranc sprain to that foot on Sept. 4, was slow to get off the field after scoring the game-winning run on an obstruction call for a 5-4 walk-off victory over the Red Sox. He had doubled on the first pitch he saw from Koji Uehara. Craig's foot remains sore, but manager Mike Matheny said on Sunday that he would "absolutely" feel comfortable sending Craig out to pinch-hit in Game 4.
The manager did indeed call on Craig in the ninth inning Sunday, and he lined a single to right field to notch his fourth hit in nine World Series at-bats after a seven-week layoff. He was replaced by pinch-runner Kolten Wong, who was picked off first base -- with Carlos Beltran at the plate -- for the final out of the Cards' 4-2 Game 4 loss.
"That was an intensity and a duration that he hadn't been pushed to," Matheny said on Craig's Game 3 heroics. "As far as [running] home to second [on a double], he had to turn it up, which I thought he looked pretty good. Then you're pretty much a dead sprint going to third and obviously everything he had left going on home. It's something he hadn't been doing.
"[You] absolutely admire a guy who's giving everything he's got when maybe his body doesn't want to. And that's what a competitor does. That's what this stage does to a competitor, also."
Craig did not participate in batting practice with the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, nor did he resume the defensive work that he had begun on Friday. It now seems unlikely that Craig would be cleared to play in the field by Monday.
"The defensive work is really kind of secondary to have him available to come in and do what he did last night," Matheny said. "Yesterday, he looked very good going home to second. He ran extremely well, as [well] as we've seen him. [We] didn't think that we were going to do much more running. But that changed quickly."
The fact that Craig was not the lead runner -- and therefore not poised to be the winning run -- after his double explained why Matheny chose not to replace him with a pinch-runner in Saturday's ninth inning. Yadier Molina, who was standing on third base, was the run that mattered in a tie game. Matheny was prepared to pinch-run Adam Wainwright if Molina was erased as the second out of the inning.
What no one could have predicted, though, was that the play would continue after Molina was thrown out.
Putting in a pinch-runner earlier would have had other ramifications as well. Matheny was waiting to insert Wainwright until it was absolutely necessary because that would have taken him off the bench as a potential pinch-hitter in an extra-inning situation. Also, the Cards preferred to have Craig's experience on the bases so as to reduce the chances of someone running into an out.
"Especially the way we saw him go home to second, we felt good about Allen being out there at that particular time," Matheny said on Sunday. "Little did we know that that one-percent chance that we would need him [to score] happened. So, yeah, we know that hindsight is pretty easy, but at the time, and still, looking what he was able to do, he did a great job of making the most out of it."