ST. LOUIS -- Jonny Gomes proved to be the perfect cure for Boston's post-traumatic obstruction syndrome.
Not in the starting lineup until Shane Victorino was scratched before game time with lower back soreness, Gomes made his first hit of the World Series a big one, ripping a three-run home run in the sixth inning Sunday night that propelled the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory over St. Louis in Game 4 at Busch Stadium.
Recovering from a stunning defeat the previous evening on an obstruction play that ended the game, the Red Sox drew even with the Cardinals instead of falling into a dangerous 3-1 hole. No matter what happens in Game 5 here, they were assured of taking the World Series back to Fenway Park, where one of the teams will win its third crown in the last 10 years.
"We've seen it many times," Boston manager John Farrell said of his team's resiliency. "This is not the first time. Granted the stage might be bigger, but this is consistent with the way we've responded to a tough night the night before.
"We came in today fully expecting a very good game to be put together. That's just who these guys are. They have shown it many times over."
Before striking the blow that got the Red Sox back in the Series, Gomes was 0 for 9 against the Cards and had two RBI in 33 at-bats this postseason, both coming in Game 1 of the ALDS. His momentum-changing blast came off reliever Seth Maness, who had allowed only four homers in 62 innings this year.
"All I've wanted is the opportunity," said the well-traveled Gomes, who learned during pre-game batting practice that he'd be playing. "I got the opportunity tonight and you can guarantee I'm going to be swinging. What's going on inside now is pretty special and magical."
Before the Red Sox went up to bat in the top of the sixth, white-hot David Ortiz, batting .727 in a lineup that is struggling overall, called the players together in the dugout and delivered an inspirational message, basically telling his teammates to step it up or face early elimination.
"He got everyone's attention pretty quick," said Gomes. "It was like 24 kindergarten kids looking up into the face of our teacher. We'll keep to ourselves what he said, but the message was pretty powerful.
"He gave us the kick in the butt that we needed. It says a lot about the guys in that clubhouse to clean the slate from a tough loss."
It didn't look good for the Red Sox in the early going as St. Louis starter Lance Lynn mowed through them with ease, encountering few of the grind-it-out at-bats for which the AL champs are known. In fact, over those first four frames, Lynn faced the minimum number of hitters while allowing one ball out of the infield.
The good news for Boston was that sore-shouldered starter Clay Buchholz did some bending but didn't break over his four-inning stint, killing the Cardinals softly with fastballs in the 87-89 mph range. The NL champs put two on with one out in the second inning without denting the scoreboard.
It took an error by Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury for St. Louis to push across a run in the third inning. Matt Carpenter singled with one down and moved to second when the ball skipped past Ellsbury, setting up Carlos Beltran's RBI single to center.
Buchholz issued two walks in the fourth inning and also threw a wild pitch, but one of the walks was intentional to get to Lynn, who flied out to right to end the threat.
That would be all for Buchholz, whose starting assignment had been scrutinized 10 ways to Tuesday because of his ailing shoulder. He was removed for a pinch hitter in the fifth, when the Red Sox drew even but could have done much more.
Ortiz continued to be an on-base machine with a leadoff double in the fifth and Lynn suddenly lost his control, walking the next two hitters. Slump-ridden shortstop Stephen Drew, batting .091 in the postseason with 17 strikeouts in 44 at-bats, finally made a contribution with a sacrifice fly to left, the throw from Matt Holliday striking Ortiz as he arrived at the plate.
Lynn would stop the damage there but the game got away from the Cardinals a bit in the sixth, and it all started with two outs and nobody on. After Dustin Pedroia singled, Lynn wanted no part of Ortiz, walking him on four pitches. Manager Mike Matheny had lefty specialist Randy Choate ready but decided not to summon him to face Ortiz.
With Gomes up, Matheny did summon Maness, a sinker-baller known for getting groundball outs. His 2-2 sinker to Gomes didn't sink, however, and the excitable outfielder smacked it over the wall in right for a three-run blast that let the air out of the home crowd.
"Seth has been able to do an incredible job in that situation all season long," said Matheny. "We wanted to give him a shot there, but it didn't work out tonight."
After reliever Felix Doubront shackled them for a couple of innings, the Cardinals would trim a run off the lead on Carpenter's RBI single in the left off lefty specialist Craig Breslow, whose World Series nightmare continued. But Farrell pulled out all the stops, including using Game 2 starter John Lackey to cover the eighth inning.
That left the ninth inning to closer Koji Uehara. He surrendered a long single off the right-field wall to gimpy Allen Craig, who could barely make it to first base after his crash-and-burn slide into home that ended Game 3.
Kolten Wong ran for Craig and made a horrible rookie mistake with two down, getting picked off first base by Uehara with postseason stalwart Beltran at the plate as the potential tying run. How does something that dumb happen?
"We had meetings early on and we talked about a real good pickoff move," said Matheny. "And when he got on base, we told him again and reminded him that his run didn't mean anything. But he slipped and that cost him."
Thus, an obstruction walk-off was followed by a pick-off walk-off. These are crazy times in the World Series.
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