Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz throws during the first inning of Game 4 of baseball's World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Curry, Pool) ORG XMIT: WS132
ST. LOUIS — The man who almost singlehandedly ended the Curse of the Bambino with his postseason heroics in 2004 set the tone Sunday night for what could become the Red Sox’ third championship in 10 seasons.
That’s when David Ortiz, the hottest hitter in the World Series, aggressively pulled teammates together in the dugout before the sixth inning for an animated, strong-language speech.
“It was like 24 kindergartners looking up at their teacher,” said Jonny Gomes, who minutes later delivered one of the biggest moments of this series with a go-ahead three-run homer that lifted the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory in Game 4 to even the series at two games apiece.
“That message was pretty powerful,” he said of the “kick-in-the-butt” speech.
Whatever he said — teammates kept that part to themselves — it made a difference as the Red Sox assured a return to Fenway Park for Game 6.
Gomes wasn’t even in the original lineup. He was a final-hour addition for Shane Victorino, who was scratched because of lower-back pain.
Buchholz solid through four
It was only four innings. But it might turn out to be the most critical four innings the Boston Red Sox get from a pitcher in this World Series.
Sore and uncertain, right-hander Clay Buchholz allowed only one unearned run Sunday in a Game 4 start against the St. Louis Cardinals, giving the Red Sox a lift many doubted he had left in his ailing shoulder — one night after a deflating ninth-inning loss put the Red Sox in a 2-1 hole in the Series.
His performance looked especially big when the Red Sox tied the game in the fifth, then took a 4-1 lead on Jonny Gomes’ three-run homer in the sixth.
Pushed to the back of the Red Sox’ rotation for the series, Buchholz was pitching on seven days of rest, and his status and strength have been daily questions since his start in Boston’s pennant-clinching victory over the Detroit Tigers.
“Since Clay’s last start, there’s been steady and increased improvement to [his strength],” manager John Farrell said before the game. “We’re not putting him in harm’s way by walking him to the mound, and we feel like we’ve got every reason to believe that what he’s done the last couple of starts out there for us is the expectation going into [Sunday].’’
Change the rule?
Still disappointed with the obstruction call on third baseman Will Middlebrooks that ended Saturday night’s game, Farrell agreed a day later that the correct call was made.
But after watching Middlebrooks become a victim of the rule despite no intent to impede runner Allen Craig, Farrell said the rule should be changed to include a provision that allows the umpire to rule differently in such cases.
“The way the obstruction rule is set up right now, the baserunner can be the aggressor and beneficiary on both sides,” Farrell said. “They can seek out an infielder, run into him and benefit by advancing.”
Already limited in the Series by a left-foot sprain, Craig appeared to avoid a serious aggravation of the injury on his game-winning scramble home, but he’s still clearly hobbled.
X-rays came back negative after Craig had to be helped off the field Saturday after he slid into third, then tripped over Middlebrooks before sliding into catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
He pinch-hit again in the ninth Sunday and delivered a one-out drive to the wall but could barely get down the line for a single before being lifted for a pinch runner.
A report claiming the Cubs are making an offseason priority of trying to sign high-priced Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is “BS,” a source said. They’re expected to explore his market but aren’t expected to have the resources to land the dominant starter and address other roster needs, as well.
◆ Game 3 was the first World Series game to end on an error since the famous grounder through Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 in 1986. Buckner is now a minor-league hitting coach for the Cubs.
◆ Game 4 was the first to end on a pickoff. Pinch runner Kolten Wong was reminded of Koji Uehara’s good pickoff move and that his run didn’t matter, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.