John Lackey Embraces Opportunity to ‘Fight With the Boys’ and Other Notes From Game 4 of World Series

John LackeyWe’re even-steven.

The Red Sox — in typical Boston fashion — dug down deep. Jonny Gomes launched a three-run homer in the sixth inning, and the Red Sox earned a 4-2 victory in Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday to tie the series at two games apiece.

The Red Sox certainly had the odds stacked against them in Game 4. In addition to their crushing Game 3 defeat less than 24 hours prior, the Red Sox were without Shane Victorino and were sending an unpredictable Clay Buchholz to the mound. Gomes filled in admirably — obviously — and Buchholz gave the Sox four very important innings en route to Boston’s win.

We’re now guaranteed at least one more game at Fenway Park. One team will be on the brink of elimination when the series shifts back to Boston, as Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright will square off in a crucial Game 5 showdown on Monday.

Before shifting gears to Game 5, let’s size up Game 4 a little bit more.

  • David Ortiz is an animal.

Ortiz is 8-for-11 with two home runs, five RBIs and five runs scored in the World Series. He has reached safely in 12 of 16 trips to the plate. And oh yeah, he would have had a grand slam in Game 1 had Carlos Beltran not made a sensational play at the right field fence.

The numbers are insane, really. But the World Series production is nothing new to Ortiz, who was part of Boston’s championships in 2004 and 2007.

Ortiz is now a career .436 (17-for-39) hitter in 12 World Series games. He has a .540 on-base percentage, a 1.335 OPS, three home runs, 13 RBIs and 12 runs scored.

The highest batting average for any player through his first 40 World Series at-bats belongs to Hal McRae. Before McRae started tossing phones around his manager’s office, he hit .450 (18-for-40) in his first 40 at-bats in the Fall Classic. Ortiz will either match McRae or slide into second place on the all-time list.

  • The legend of Ortiz isn’t limited to statistics. The 17-year veteran gathered his teammates for a pep talk in the dugout before the sixth inning of Game 4, and it helped spark Jonny Gomes’ three-run blast in the club’s ensuing set of at-bats.

“His career states what he’s done,” manager John Farrell said of Ortiz. “He’s a tremendous hitter at any point in time in the year. Playing first base has certainly not affected it in any way. He’ll be back in there tomorrow at first.  And even in that fifth, after the fifth inning, after he scored on the sacrifice fly by Stephen [Drew], he pulled everybody together and had a little talk in the dugout, and it was meaningful. He’s the one guy, of the guys that we have, he’s one of the guys that people look up to. Our guys look up to him. And kind of a timely conversation he had with everybody.”

  • Ortiz said that he told his teammates to take advantage of their current opportunity because it’s not every year that you get to the World Series.
  • Gomes wasn’t willing to reveal the exact nature of Ortiz’s speech. He painted a perfect picture of the scene, though.

“Any time this guy steps in the box, there’s a presence. Any time this guy puts a uniform on, there’s a presence,” Gomes said. “If this guy wants to rally us together for a pep talk, it was like 24 kindergartners looking up at their teacher. He got everyone’s attention, and we looked him right in the eyes. That message was pretty powerful.”

  • Gomes pointed out that Ortiz’s speech was even more special because it came right before the Stand Up to Cancer on-field ceremony — something close to Gomes’ heart.

“And then to add on to that in the top of the sixth we all went in front of the dugout for the Stand Up to Cancer. I held two signs myself,” Gomes said. “And it was just pretty ironic that happened at the top of the sixth. And I think there was some angels above the stadium looking down on me and looking down on everyone else.”

Gomes later shed some more light on his two signs.

“It was my high school coach who passed away while he was coaching, Bob Leslie, Casa Grande High School. And little Brady Wein, you know, BradyBunchLacrosse.com, is the way to follow him. About four and a half years old and talk about battle tested. This little kid, he comes out to the ballpark every once in a while, and it was pretty special to be able to do that top of the sixth. It really adds to the fairy tale that it was for me today.”

  • Gomes was a career .125 hitter (5-for-40) in the playoffs before Game 4. It was the lowest average of any active player with at least 40 postseason at-bats.
  • Clay Buchholz pushed through four innings before the Red Sox turned to the bullpen.

Buchholz’s fastball sat at around 88 mph, so the right-hander was forced to use a heavy dose of offspeed stuff and rely heavily on his command. He gave up one unearned run on three hits while walking three and striking out two before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth inning.

“That was four innings, so much attention has been brought to, can he make it?  What’s he going to give you?  A lot of scrutiny around his situation,” Farrell said. “But given that he might not have had his midseason stuff, if the ball doesn’t bounce up off of some clump of grass in the outfield [in the third inning], [Carlos] Beltran might ground into a double play, and [Buchholz] may not have given up a run through four innings.”

  • Felix Doubront has suddenly carved out an important role the Red Sox’ bullpen.

Doubront was charged with one run in 2 2/3 innings, marking the second straight game in which he provided a boost in relief.

“I was pretty much focused. And when I got my time, when I got that opportunity to go up there and do my job, you know, as a reliever, now I was feeling pretty good,” Doubront said. “And like I say, focus and try to get serious, and give my teammates the opportunity to score more runs and win the game.”

  • Junichi Tazawa recorded his fifth hold of this postseason, matching Mike Timlin’s 2003 single-season playoff record for a Red Sox pitcher.
  • John Lackey made his first relief appearance since June 27, 2004, against Dodgers. The 34-year-old worked a scoreless eighth inning.
  • Lackey’s renaissance season has been something special. Not only has the veteran exceeded on-field expectations, but his overall demeanor has improved drastically over his first three seasons in Boston.

“This time of year, very few people are 100 percent,” Lackey said while pointing out Buchholz’s four important innings. “Everybody is playing with something. You gotta chip in and try to get wins and it doesn’t matter what they look like. You get to four, and that’s all that matters. I’m just excited to help out. Whenever you can get in there, get in the fight with the boys, it’s always fun.”

  • It didn’t take long for Lackey to earn a reputation as a big-game pitcher, as he won Game 7 of the World Series with the Angels as a rookie in 2002.

“It’s been 11 years and I think I’m appreciating this one and soaking up this one a little bit more,” Lackey said. “I was just a rookie then, just trying to help out a bunch of veterans. Now, I’m a veteran guy who really appreciates how tough it is to be here.”

  • Koji Uehara, who had two career pickoffs before Game 4, picked off Kolten Wong at first base to end the game. Beltran, one of the best postseason performers in MLB history, was left standing in the batter’s box representing the potential tying run.
  • Wong apologized on Twitter after the game.
  • Game 4 marked the first time ever that a postseason game ended on a pickoff.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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