The Red Sox have tied the World Series at two games a piece and retaken home field advantage thanks to Jonny Gomes' slump-busting three-run homer.
If any game in the series was going to produce a high-scoring shootout, this one seemed best candidate. An injured Buchholz, a Red Sox pen tired from Game 3, and a fastball-throwing Lance Lynn going against a club that was half-again as good as the second best team in the league against heaters.
So of course it ended 4-2.
All that concern over Clay Buchholz' shoulder? Completely warranted, as it turns out. Buchholz was sitting in the high 80s, only rarely touching 90 with his fastball. But he did have reasonably good control, and his breaking balls still broke. Amusingly enough--at least now that we're looking back on it--Buchholz' one run of the night was actually unearned, coming thanks to a bobble in center field by Jacoby Ellsbury that let Matt Carpenter stretch a third-innign single into two bases, scoring two pitches later on Carlos Beltran's single.
As for Lynn? He was looking every bit like, well, almost any of the starters in the ALCS. David Ortiz' ground ball off Lynn's heel was the only hit the Red Sox managed in the first four innings, with Jonny Gomes immediately snuffing out that potential second-inning rally by hitting into a double play.
The fifth, however, would be different. This time David Ortiz' hit wasn't lucky, but loud, going for two bases and giving the Red Sox their first runner in scoring position. And after walks to both Jonny Gomes and Xander Bogaerts, he stood at third with all three outs still left to the Red Sox. Stephen Drew, true to form, made one of those, but did so with a fly ball that let Ortiz come home to tie the game. On the whole it was a wasteful inning, turning a bases loaded, zero outs situation into just one run. But at that point getting on the board at all seemed a small miracle.
So how about the large miracles? Those followed immediately. First up: Felix Doubront. It wasn't so long ago that Doubront was questioning his ability to perform in relief, but tonight he retired eight straight batters before finally giving up a double to Shane Robinson. That run would score as Craig Breslow reinforced his two damaging World Series outings with a third, but that shouldn't diminish how big Doubront was for the Sox tonight.
Bigger still, though, was Jonny Gomes. Gomes entered the sixth inning 4-for-32 in the postseason, with one of those hits not so much as leaving the infield. With a righty on the mound he was about the last person the Red Sox could have wanted at the plate save Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks--well, Brandon Workman--with Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz on and two outs. But if Gomes has been lacking at the plate, he still seems to have his penchant for clutch. Facing exclusively 90 MPH sinkers, Gomes worked the count to 2-2, then got one up-and-in and blasted it to left field. So far in this series everything hit to that part of the park has seemed to die on or well before the track, but Gomes' didn't come close, falling halfway across the bullpen for a three-run shot.
There were still some dramatics to come. With John Lackey pitching out of the pen in the eighth (this was his throw day--he'll still make his regular start in Game 6) Xander Bogaerts made a great diving play to stop a Yadier Molina ground ball from getting into left field, but then rushed his throw to first, leaving Napoli reaching in vain as the ball got away, allowing Molina to get to second base. A wild pitch moved Molina to third with one out, but from there Lackey was able to shut the door on the inning, inducing a pop-up and ground ball to send the game to the ninth.
And there it was Koji. He gave up one hit--a big one to Allen Craig who would have ended up at second if he weren't basically running on one leg. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, that extra base would prove key. Kolten Wong, in the game to run for Craig, was left at first, looking to steal second. So he took his lead off of first, then stumbled in trying to get back when Koji threw over. Napoli got the tag in just in time, and Carlos Beltran was left holding his bat at home, the could-have-been tying run.
The Red Sox have evened the series up at 2-2 now, and hold home field advantage once again.
Read more Red Sox:
- Minor-league pitcher asks if Jon Lester doctored baseball
- Jon Lester's playoff legend grows
- This is it: An oral history of the Red Sox' season so far
- Xander Bogaerts: The next Red Sox superstar
- Xander Bogaerts, Michael Wacha prove the future is now