Jonny Gomes and the Red Sox don’t go away without swinging.
Gomes, who didn’t even know that he was going to be in the starting lineup until halfway through batting practice Sunday, launched a three-run home run off Cardinals reliever Seth Maness in the sixth inning of Game 4 of the World Series. The blast led Boston to a 4-2 victory that evened up the World Series at two games apiece, further demonstrating the Red Sox’ uncanny ability to overcome adversity.
“It’s a huge win,” Gomes said. “I don’t think it sums too much up right now besides the fact that we’re going back to Fenway [for Game 6], hopefully to rock and roll inside Fenway Park.”
The dust kicked up by Saturday’s wacky finish hadn’t even settled by the time the Red Sox and Cardinals arrived at Busch Stadium on Sunday. Much of the talk before the game centered on Saturday’s walk-off obstruction call and whether the Red Sox’ resilience would be enough for them to rebound from such a devastating defeat. After all, the Sox were relying on a starting pitcher in Clay Buchholz who admitted Saturday that he wasn’t 100 percent.
Boston’s situation grew even hairier before Game 4 when the Red Sox learned that Shane Victorino would be unable to start in right field because of lower back tightness. Victorino is just 3-for-34 between the ALCS and World Series, but his defense is an asset, particularly in St. Louis’ spacious outfield. The veteran’s absence presented another obstacle on a course suddenly full of them.
But in stepped Gomes, who had been relegated to a bench role in St. Louis with Daniel Nava returning to the starting lineup. John Farrell had gone with Gomes for much of the postseason based on “intangibles,” but the Red Sox skipper finally decided to turn back to Nava before Game 3 of the Fall Classic.
Gomes was hitting just .152 (5-for-33) with a .200 on-base percentage, no home runs, two RBIs and nine strikeouts before Sunday’s Game 4. Given what we’ve seen this postseason, however, we probably should have known that something special was about to happen when Gomes was inserted into Boston’s Game 4 lineup. His clutch home run continued a trend of guys busting out of slumps in big spots.
David Ortiz had been 0-for-6 in the ALCS before his game-tying grand slam in Game 2. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had been 0-for-4 in the ALCS before his walk-off RBI single in Game 2. Mike Napoli had been 0-for-6 in the ALCS before his game-winning home run off Justin Verlander in Game 3. And Victorino had been 2-for-23 in the ALCS before lifting his go-ahead grand slam into the Monster seats in Game 6.
Gomes had been mired in a 0-for-9 World Series skid before jumping all over Maness’ 2-2 offering. Gomes knew that the ball was leaving the yard as soon as he hit it, and his outpouring of emotion spilled over toward the dugout, where Napoli nearly yanked the beard right off Gomes’ face.
“I don’t think I’m that good to plan out my home runs in the World Series. With that being said, the one thing that I’ve always wanted out of this game is the opportunity, whether that was a uniform, whether that was a pinch hit, whether that was going to get a start,” Gomes said. “I got the opportunity tonight, and the one thing that you can guarantee when I’m in the lineup is that I’m going to be swinging. I was fortunate right there to take a swing on a good pitch.”
There are some things in sports that are difficult to explain. The Red Sox’ resilience — which is still producing new tricks four games into the World Series — is certainly something special.