Urgent care: Red Sox knot up World Series
Papi rallies troops with speech, Gomes hits go-ahead three-run homer
ST. LOUIS -- The Red Sox like the urgency. It has brought out the best in them all year long, and perhaps things were going to take their natural course again in Game 4 of the World Series.
But David Ortiz didn't wait to find out.
In the middle of the game, sensing his team was a little tight, Ortiz pulled his troops together in the dugout and demanded that they, well, calm down. There were probably a few choice words along the way, but the message was delivered and responded to.
Nobody responded better -- or louder -- than Jonny Gomes, who swung the momentum back to Boston's side with a signature moment, a three-run homer with two outs in the top of the sixth that led the Sox to a 4-2 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday night at Busch Stadium.
Through four games, the World Series, just like Ortiz said after Game 2, is "Even Steven."
The Fall Classic has indeed been classic, and has now turned into a best-of-three for the much-coveted trophy, with the next chapter coming Monday night at Busch Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8:07 first pitch).
What possessed Ortiz to give his team an impassioned display of emotion with the game in progress?
"Just the game," said Ortiz, who was 3-for-3 and reached base four times. "The game talks, man. I know we have better hitters than what we have shown. I just feel like I saw a lot of faces kind of looking in the wrong direction. Every team has that guy, and I think I'm the guy here."
Who's to argue at this point?
However, there were a collection of other Boston players who stepped up in this one, Gomes most prominent among them.
Adding to the storyline of Gomes getting the big hit was that he wasn't even supposed to start the game. But Shane Victorino was scratched 90 minutes before the first pitch with lower back tightness, and in came Gomes as the starting left fielder while Daniel Nava shifted to right.
"I found out about halfway through my batting practice," said Gomes. "When I get to the ballpark, I have to prepare myself to play every single day. Obviously a different routine when you are playing than when you aren't playing. One thing I've fought for since I signed up for this game, that's the opportunity -- whether that's to pinch-hit, whether that's a uniform, whether that's a start. When my number is called, I've got to be ready."
And when the blast by Gomes soared into Boston's bullpen, Ryan Dempster retrieved it on one hop. As Gomes talked to the media after the game, Dempster gave him the baseball.
Things were still plenty interesting -- and tense -- after the long ball by Gomes made it 4-1. The bullpen was tested, but it largely came through, backed by big performances from Felix Doubront, Junichi Tazawa and, yes, even John Lackey, who navigated his way through the eighth in his first relief appearance since 2004.
"It was definitely a little different," said Lackey. "I hadn't run in from the bullpen in a lot of years. David [Ross] was great back there calming me down. I've been out there enough times to know you've just got to make pitches. It doesn't matter what inning it is. I'm trying to get three outs to get it to the closer."
Lackey, who will start Game 6 at Fenway Park on Wednesday, asked manager John Farrell for the chance to help the team out of the bullpen.
"I told the manager yesterday that I wanted to," Lackey said. "I was available and wanted to help out if he needed me."
After Lackey got Matt Adams on a groundout, Yadier Molina hit one down the line at third that Xander Bogaerts made a nice diving stop on, only to make a poor throw to first for a two-base error.
A wild pitch moved Molina to third with just one out, but Lackey dug down, popping up Jon Jay and inducing David Freese into a groundout, keeping the lead at 4-2.
Closer Koji Uehara took it home, recording the final three outs, the last of which came on a pickoff of pinch-runner Kolten Wong at first.
"I just got a little off the base," Wong said. "I wanted to get back and my foot slipped on me."
It was the second straight night the game ended in somewhat stunning fashion. This time, the Cards walked off the field with disappointment. And it happened with Carlos Beltran, who has a long history of coming through in the clutch, at the plate.
"That was wild," Ross said. "That was awesome. It was kind of like last night. I bet they're dumbfounded, like, 'What just happened?' They had one of the better, probably second to David for me, one of the best postseason hitters up and the guy gets picked off. I was real happy."
The Red Sox had endured an agonizing 5-4 loss in Game 3, capped by an obstruction call on third baseman Will Middlebrooks. But they vowed not to let it impact them going forward.
"We've seen it many times," said Farrell. "Tonight's not the first. Granted the stage might be bigger, but this is consistent with the way we've responded to a tough night the night before, and we came in today fully expecting a very good game to be put together. That's just who these guys are, and they've shown it many times over."
Still, things were challenging for the Red Sox in the early innings of Game 4. The ailing Clay Buchholz was throwing most of his fastballs in the high 80s, but he was able to hold the dangerous Cardinals at bay.
"I have never seen Buchholz throwing 88-mph fastballs," said Ortiz, "but that tells you how that kid feels. He went out there and gave us [four] quality innings. That was his last start of the year."
Still, there was the matter of the offense, which was getting overpowered by Cards righty Lance Lynn. He faced the minimum 12 batters over the first four innings, allowing one baserunner -- a broken-bat infield tapper by Ortiz.
"I've been in this situation before and I know we have a better offensive team than what we've showed," said Ortiz. "When you're putting pressure on yourself and you're trying to overdo things, it doesn't always work."
But the Boston bats awakened in the fifth, forcing Lynn to throw 25 pitches. It should come as no surprise that Ortiz started the rally by rifling a leadoff double into the gap in right-center.
Gomes worked a 10-pitch at-bat for a walk. Bogaerts also walked. That set up the slumping Stephen Drew with the bases loaded and nobody out. Drew did his job, getting the run home on a sacrifice fly to left.
Locked in a 1-1 tie, Dustin Pedroia started the game's crucial rally with a two-out single in the top of the sixth. Lynn seemed to have no interest in pitching to Ortiz and wound up walking him on four pitches.
Given all Ortiz has done in this World Series, it seemed like a sound strategy. The Cardinals then went to the bullpen, bringing in righty Seth Maness.
Gomes barreled up a 2-2 elevated sinker that easily cleared the wall in left, setting off an eruption in the Boston dugout, not to mention the basepaths, where Pedroia, Ortiz and Gomes gleefully reached home plate.
"I think I was the happiest guy in the whole stadium," said Ortiz. "We needed it. We have a good offensive team and I know that we have guys capable to get it done."
Just like that, the Sox were up, 4-1.
By then, Ortiz had spoken.
"It was pretty powerful," said bench coach Torey Lovullo. "I wasn't exactly sure what he was going to say. He brought up some good points. 'This is our time. Let's play our type of baseball.' It was a pretty powerful moment. Everyone came together and rallied behind those words."
Early on, all eyes were Buchholz, who has been battling with shoulder fatigue throughout the postseason. Despite his decrease in velocity, the righty got the job done, for the most part, navigating out of some jams. The Cards took a 1-0 lead in the third on an RBI single by Beltran.
Buchholz came out for a pinch-hitter in the fifth, ending his night. He scattered three hits over his four innings, walking three (one was intentional) and striking out two, with the one run unearned.
Doubront gave the Red Sox eight big outs. He was charged with a run, but it happened on the watch of the suddenly slumping Craig Breslow, who gave up an RBI single to Matt Carpenter in the seventh to make it a two-run game.
The Cardinals would get no closer, and Ortiz could go back to the hotel knowing his words weren't wasted.
"I will do it tomorrow again if I have to," Ortiz said. "Just one of those speeches that motivate players and bring you to reality."
The sweet reality for the Red Sox is that they are right back in the World Series -- all tied up and headed for what is sure to be a memorable finish.