Unlikely heroes help tie series
I was nervous heading into Game 4.
I know you were too. It's alright to admit.
After what may have been the most ridiculous ending to any baseball game ever, it's easy for a team to feel dejected heading into the next game, in a hole, on the road.
The cards we're stacked against them. Clay Buchholz got the starting nod despite dealing with an injury himself. "I might only have one start left but I'll give it everything I have," Buchholz said earlier in the week. Quite the Rocky Balboa pre-Mason Dixon fight type of quote there.
Still in an NL ballpark, the potent Red Sox offense would be without another bat yet again, leaving Mike Napoli and his beard to hang out in the dugout. Game 3 proved to be a challenge for John Farrell in dealing with ways to use a pinch hitter for a pitcher.
Victorino was a late scratch due to back tightness, a nagging injury that starting back in May. Yes, five months ago. It didn't help that he's been hit by seven pitches this postseason, an MLB record.
Late in the season, you never want to have a starter dealing with injuries. But in this case, Victorino, as well as everyone else in New England, is glad he was hurting.
In comes Jonny Gomes for Shane. Beard big, bat small. Postseason average of just .152, nine strikeouts to just five hits, 0-9 in the World Series. While a leader in the clubhouse and a fun guy to have on your team, Boston needed a win, not a laugh.
In the top of the 5th Gomes quickly went down 0-2, both strikes looking to Cardinals' pitcher Lance Lynn. He looked cold, confused, out of place. Ortiz standing on 2nd with Boston down one, desperately looking for a hit to drive him in. Then, Gomes battled, alternating fouls and taking balls in a 10 pitch at bat, drawing the walk. It seemed insignificant at the time, but Jonny Gomes was finally starting to feel comfortable at the plate.
Next inning he stepped up again, this time facing Seth Maness. With Pedroia and Ortiz on base, Gomes really worked the pitcher, fouling off or taking four straight fastballs low in the strike zone. It was a game of chess, waiting to see which opponent would make the first mistake. Maness broke first, and Gomes crushed a fastball over the plate deep into the chilly St. Louis night. It was a no-doubter, a shot you knew had no chance of landing inside the park as soon as it left the bat.
In joyous irony, Gomes pumped his fist and screamed while rounding first, just as Victorino had done after his grand slam in the ALCS. Gomes was rewarded by aggressive beard pulls when he returned to the dug out. A moment like that makes dealing with an itchy face for months so worth it.
Yet the game wasn't over. Buchholz had given Boston four innings of one run baseball, probably just about as good as they could have expected. Felix Doubront, Craig Breslow, and Junichi Tazawa then tag teamed the next two innings, giving up a run to make it a 4-2 game.
Holding a two run lead heading into the 8th, manager John Farrell made another move that left Boston fans scratching their head. Tazawa had faced just one batter in the 7th, so it seemed all too logical that he would come in for the 8th. Yet, out of the bullpen came John Lackey, Game 2 starter. It was Lackey's first relief appearance since 2004. If, at the time, you saw this coming and thought it was a great idea, you're either lying or you enjoy the taste of whiskey a little too much.
The Lackey experiment went… interestingly. He would eventually get out of the inning unharmed, but not before an error and a wild pitch allowed Yadier Molina to advance to third, sending a few heart palpitations to everyone at the bars on Yawkey Way. Tonight, John Farrell questionable moves proved not to backfire.
As if the ending to games couldn't get any wilder in this series, we head into the bottom of the 9th with Uehara on the mound. With two out and a pinch-running Kolton Wong on first, Carlos Beltran stepped to the plate, one of the most dangerous postseason hitters in baseball history, representing the tying run. Wong's run was insignificant in the game, yet Boston decided to hold him on first, leaving a wide open gap in the right side of the infield. All of this, much to the displeasure of FOX Analyst Tim McCarver. In a way, he had a point.
Then, in a move nobody saw coming, Uehara fired a ball back to first. Wong got caught sleeping. Tag made. Game over. Series tied.
Brilliance? Instinctual? Unintentional? No matter what it was, it ended the World Series with a pickoff, the first time in MLB postseason history.
After the game, Uehara admitted he wasn't even trying to pick off Wong, just throw off the rhythm of Beltran.
Gomes was in the game just trying to break his 5-for-33 postseason slump. Lackey was in the game just trying not to cause a disaster. Uehara was in the game just trying to throw off the rhythm of a postseason hits machine.
It's funny how a plan works out sometimes.
Keep pullin' on those beards, boys.
Follow Rich Cooke on Twitter: @Rich_Cooke
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