Red Sox pick their spots
St. Louis — There's no telling how these wacky World Series games will end.
One night after a rare obstruction call, this one finished with a pickoff play — both firsts in postseason history. Oh, and Jonny Gomes hit a decisive, three-run homer when he wasn't even in the original lineup.
An entertaining, even goofy World Series is tied at two games apiece after the Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 on Sunday, which ensured the title will be decided back at Fenway Park.
"What's going on inside here is pretty special, magical," Gomes said.
Inserted into the lineup about 75 minutes before gametime when Shane Victorino couldn't shake off a bad back, Gomes hit a tiebreaking shot off reliever Seth Maness in the sixth inning.
Felix Doubront and surprise reliever John Lackey, both starters during the regular season, picked up for a gritty Clay Buchholz to help the Red Sox hang on.
And of course, another bizarre ending: Koji Uehara picked off rookie pinch-runner Kolten Wong at first base for the final out — with postseason star Carlos Beltran standing at the plate.
"I feel bad for the kid. I know he's trying to steal a base or put himself in a position where he can score," Beltran said. "But the best way for us to pick him up is to come here tomorrow and get a win."
Game 5 is Monday night at Busch Stadium, with Boston left-hander Jon Lester facing Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in a rematch of the opener, won 8-1 by the Red Sox.
No telling what's next.
Of the 1,404 postseason games in major league history, none had previously ended on an obstruction call or a pickoff, according to STATS.
"It was the first time for me to end a game like that as far as I can remember," Uehara said through a translator.
Wong's eyes were red from tears when he spoke after the game.
"I was ready to go from first to third with Carlos driving me in," he said. "Went to plant, and my back foot just came right out of me. From there, I was dead. I knew I was dead once it happened."
Gomes, a journeyman who first made it to the majors nearly nine months after a heart attack on Christmas Eve in 2002, arrived at Busch Stadium expecting to watch the game from the bench. Given his chance, he helped Boston get started in the fifth when he followed David Ortiz's leadoff double with a 10-pitch walk that wore down starter Lance Lynn, who had faced the minimum 12 batters through the first four innings.
Stephen Drew's sacrifice fly tied the score 1-all, erasing a deficit created when center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury's third-inning error advanced Matt Carpenter into scoring position for Beltran's RBI single.
Ortiz, who is 8 for 11 (.727) in the Series after a three-hit night, was Boston's leader, smacking his hands together and screaming at teammates to get going when he pulled into second base on his double. Then, after the fifth inning, he huddled the Red Sox for a pep talk in the dugout.
"Let's loosen up and let's try to play baseball the way we normally do," Ortiz remembered telling them. "I know we are a better team than what we had shown. Sometimes you get to this stage and you try to overdo things, and it doesn't work that way."
"It was like 24 kindergartners looking up at their teacher," Gomes said, "He got everyone's attention, and we looked him right in the eyes. That message was pretty powerful."
Not long after, Gomes' drive put Boston ahead 4-1.
With adrenaline taking over, Gomes spiked an arm through the air as he rounded first base, yelled and banged his chest with his right fist twice. Teammates tugged on Gomes' beard for good luck when he got back to the dugout, including a two-handed pull by Mike Napoli.
While talk of umpires' calls dominated discussion following two of the opening three games, this one turned on a manager's pregame decision.
John Farrell's original Red Sox lineup didn't include Gomes, but Victorino's back had been bothering him since Saturday, so Daniel Nava was moved from left field to right and from fifth to second in the batting order. Gomes was inserted into the No. 5 hole behind Ortiz.
"During batting practice, when I met with Shane today, he said, 'Yeah, put me in there. I'll find a way to get ready to start the game,'" Farrell said. "As we went through the other work, it became obvious he wasn't capable. And you know what? It turns out that his replacement is the difference in this one tonight."
Gomes had been 0 for 9 in the Series before the home run, and Red Sox outfielders had been 4 for 40 with no RBIs. Following Dustin Pedroia's two-out single and a four-pitch walk to Ortiz by Lynn, Maness threw five straight sinkers to Gomes, who sent the last one into the Red Sox bullpen in left as Matt Holliday kept running back only to run out of room.
"It was right down the middle," Maness said. "That's baseball, it happens."
Carpenter singled home a run in the seventh off Craig Breslow after pinch-hitter Shane Robinson doubled with two outs against Doubront. Junichi Tazawa came in and got Holliday to hit an inning-ending grounder to second, a night after allowing a tiebreaking, two-run double to the slugger.
Doubront got the win with 2 2-3 innings of one-hit relief. Lackey, the Game 2 loser and Boston's probable Game 6 starter, pitched the eighth for his first relief appearance in nine years, overcoming a two-base throwing error by third baseman Xander Bogaerts — Boston's seventh error of the Series — and a wild pitch.
With a runner on third, Lackey got Jon Jay to pop up and David Freese to ground out.
"It's been a while for sure," Lackey said, "but I got through it and got to the closer."
Uehara, Boston's sixth pitcher, got three outs for his sixth save this postseason, completing a six-hitter.
Lynn was the hard-luck loser, leaving with the score tied and two on for Maness, who allowed Gomes' homer on his fifth pitch.
"As a competitor, you want the opportunity to maybe pitch yourself out of the inning," Lynn said. "I'm not happy when I come out of a game — ever. That's just part of being a competitor."
It was a special anniversary for both teams. Exactly nine years earlier, the Red Sox completed a four-game sweep of the Cardinals across the street at old Busch Stadium for their first championship since 1918. And two years earlier, Freese hit a tying, two-run, two-out triple in the ninth against Texas and a winning homer in the 11th to force a Game 7, which St. Louis won the following night.
Buchholz, in his first appearance since the AL championship series finale on Oct. 19, fought through shoulder issues and his velocity topped out at 90 mph. He lasted a season-low four innings and 66 pitches before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter, but he allowed just an unearned run and three hits.
"I don't think I had the fastball I usually had. But I had some more movement on my other pitches and had some good defense behind me," Buchholz said. "I felt like I gave it all that I could while I was out there."
And on another strange night, it was enough.
• St. Louis had been 8-0 this postseason when scoring first. ... Cardinals C Yadier Molina extended his Series hitting streak to seven games. ... Holliday argued with plate umpire Paul Emmel after he was called out on strikes in the fifth, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny came on the field to make sure his left fielder didn't get ejected. ... Beltran is 8 for 10 with 12 RBIs with runners in scoring position during the postseason. ... Just one regular-season game this year ended with a pickoff, when Houston's Jose Veras caught Jon Danks of the Chicago White Sox at second on June 15, STATS said.
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