Maness leaves sinker up, left with sinking feeling
'Ground-Ball Guy' in St. Louis' bullpen allows go-ahead homer in Game 4
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' ground-ball guy didn't get his ground ball, and as a result, the World Series is knotted up going into Game 5.
Seth Maness threw a sinker that didn't sink to Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes in the sixth inning of Game 4 on Sunday night, and Gomes deposited it into the visitors' bullpen in left field for the three-run home run that sent the Red Sox to a 4-2 win at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals will play their final Busch Stadium game on Monday night (6:30 CT air time on FOX, 7:07 first pitch).
How badly did the game's most critical pitch miss?
"It was up, right down the middle, on a tee for him," Maness said. "He capitalized."
And if that wasn't enough, Maness added: "It missed by a lot. I looked at the video. It was bad."
The fly ball was uncharacteristic for what Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso earlier in this postseason called the team's "Ground-Ball Guy." During the regular season, Maness, a 25-year-old rookie, pitched to a 2.32 ERA in 66 games while inducing 68.4 percent ground balls, tied with teammate Randy Choate for the second-highest percentage among Major Leaguers who pitched in more than 10 games. The D-backs' Brad Ziegler led the Majors with 70.4 percent. Maness had surrendered only two home runs in 168 at-bats against right-handed hitters this season -- regular season and postseason -- entering the night.
So Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had a ground ball in mind when he called for Maness in relief of starter Lance Lynn with runners at first and second base, two outs, the game tied and Gomes due to bat.
"I'm just a right-handed, hard swinger guy," Gomes said. "I don't think there's too many matchups, really, to stay away from. I'm sure there's all kinds of reports on me or whatever, but if I'm fortunate enough to get a mistake, the bat's going to come through the zone hot, and it worked out."
Maness threw five pitches, all sinkers at 89-90 mph. In a 2-2 count, catcher Yadier Molina wanted a pitch low and away. Instead, Maness said he threw one "down the middle and up -- not the pitch I was looking for."
"With Seth, he's been a guy who's been able to help us out and do an incredible job in that situation all season long," Matheny said. "He's been able to come in and get the big out when we needed it, and we wanted to give him a shot. It just didn't work out tonight."
Television cameras caught a visibly upset Lynn in the dugout.
"That's just part of the game. Those guys are not trying to give up any runs, ever," Lynn said. "I feel bad for Seth. He's been great for us all year. For that to happen to him, I feel horrible for him."
Maness was looking for another opportunity in Game 5.
"It's going to be tough, but you have to have short-term amnesia," he said, confusing his clichés a bit. "Come back at them [Monday]."
He has not been quite as automatic since the regular season gave way to October. After allowing only 12 percent of 52 inherited baserunners to score during the regular season, six of 11 (55 percent) have scored in the postseason.
Unlike hard-throwing rookies Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, Maness can ill afford to miss.
"A guy like me, I have to hit my spots," he said. "It didn't happen tonight. I left the ball up -- I looked at it -- right down the middle. … Sometimes you get away with those. I had a lot of those [in the regular season] where you miss up, and he might pop it up or somebody swings through it. But a good hitter, more times than not, you're not going to get away with that."
Maness still liked the Cardinals' chances, tied at two games apiece with three to play.