ST. LOUIS -- Jonny Gomes, sleepless in St. Louis and hitless in the World Series, was not supposed to play Sunday night in Game 4 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Red Sox manager John Farrell had gone back to playing the percentages, opting for the switch-hitter and better defender, Daniel Nava, to make his second straight start in Busch Stadium.
But well after Farrell had posted his starting lineup, the Red Sox learned that right fielder Shane Victorino was a no-go, a victim of the lower back strain that has flared on him at various times this season, none more inopportune than before a Series game.
Nava was shifted to right field, and Gomes was back in left field -- and soon, in the limelight, his two-out, three-run home run in the sixth inning lifting the Red Sox to a 4-2 win in another night of thriller theater, the Sox squaring the Series at two games apiece after losing the night before on an umpire’s obstruction call.
This time it was the Cardinals whose hopes came to a shocking end, Red Sox closer Koji Uehara picking off pinch runner Kolten Wong at first base for the game’s final out, which led to the spectacle of the 38-year-old Japanese reliever and the bearded mountain-man first baseman, Mike Napoli, coming together in a hilarious midair pirouette to celebrate.
Gomes, who had drawn a fifth-inning walk after David Ortiz’s leadoff double, a rally that led to Boston’s first run on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Stephen Drew (4-for-45 before the at-bat), connected off Cardinals rookie reliever Seth Maness, driving a ball into the Sox bullpen with Dustin Pedroia aboard on a single and Ortiz on a walk.
Climb on my back, boys: Ortiz continues to have a scintillating series at the plate, even as he spends his downtime between at-bats playing first base, not his usual routine in the American League. Ortiz reached base all four times he came to the plate, with a double, two singles and a walk. Ortiz has eight hits in 11 Series at-bats, a .727 batting average which at the moment ranks as the second highest in Series history, behind only Cincinnati’s Billy Hatcher (.750 in the Reds’ four-game sweep in 1990). Ortiz also has drawn four walks in the Series.
Buch stops here: Clay Buchholz was the biggest will-he-or-won’t-he storyline of the Series, loads of folks reluctant to take manager John Farrell at his word that Buchholz would start Game 4, bad shoulder and all. There even was an undercurrent of snark suggesting that Buchholz didn’t want to pitch. But Buchholz, despite stuff far from what he had back when he was running off nine wins in a row to open the season, gutted his way through the first four innings. He allowed three hits and an unearned run, and left trailing 1-0 after four, having thrown 66 pitches.
Felix one cool cat: Sox left-hander Felix Doubront, left out of the postseason rotation, had never pitched in back-to-back games out of the bullpen in his big league career, and only three times in the minors, the last in 2011. But after giving the Sox two scoreless innings in Game 3, Doubront replaced Buchholz in the fifth and set down the first eight batters he faced, striking out three, before being lifted after pinch hitter Shane Robinson’s two-out double in the seventh.
Ellsbury errs again: Nearly every defensive metric had Jacoby Ellsbury as the best defensive outfielder in the American League, a shoo-in for a Gold Glove. But Sunday night, Ellsbury committed his second error in two nights, bobbling Matt Carpenter’s third-inning single, allowing Carpenter to advance an extra base. That proved costly, as Carlos Beltran followed with a base hit to score Carpenter.
Quicksilver Quintin: Quintin Berry gave the Red Sox their first stolen base of the Series when he stole second after entering to run for David Ortiz in the eighth. It was Berry’s third stolen base of the postseason. He has been successful in all 29 of his stolen-base attempts in his big league career, including two in the postseason last year for Detroit.
All hands on deck: John Lackey, who is on track to pitch Game 6 in Boston, came out of the bullpen to pitch a scoreless eighth inning. The inning was not without peril: A two-base throwing error by third baseman Xander Bogaerts and a wild pitch put Yadier Molina on third with one out. But Jon Jay popped to short and David Freese grounded to short, ending the threat.