Yet another crazy game. Last night ended on a walkoff obstruction call, this one ended on a pickoff play. Never before had a playoff game ended on one of those plays.
Horrible decision making once again played a big role. St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had the option to pinch hit for starting pitcher Lance Lynn with runners on first and second with two out in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Matheny let Lynn hit, and the scoring opportunity ended when he flew out to right fielder Daniel Nava. He surrendered a run in the fifth, and after retiring the first two hitters of the sixth inning, Dustin Pedroia singled. Inexplicably with the lefty-killing Randy Choate ready, the righthanded Lynn was allowed to face David Ortiz.
He pitched Ortiz very conservatively, walking him on four pitches.
Then, Seth Maness was brought into the game, and Jonny Gomes happened. The three-run blast would be the deciding runs. All in all, five of the ten hitters Lynn faced after the fourth inning reached base, with three walks.
Perhaps lost in the craziness of the game were the eight crucial outs provided by Felix Doubront.
After starter Clay Buchholz somehow worked through four very shaky innings, Doubront entered the game.
Doubront had pitched two scoreless innings the previous night. This was the first time he had pitched on back-to-back games since 2011, and only the fourth time in his major league career.
Nevertheless, his velocity was fine, as he topped out at 94. In fact, his stuff looked sharper than the previous night, where he failed to generate a swing and miss. A generous zone by Paul Emmel didn’t hurt either. All three of Doubront’s strikeouts were of the looking variety, and the ones to Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams looked questionable.
All in all, Doubront retired the first eight hitters before pinch hitter Shane Robinson drove a double to left.
There’s a direct connection between the shorter outing and increased effectiveness. With the extra off days, getting depth from starting pitchers is not as important if your bullpen is solid. With just one turn through the order, Doubront can be a much better pitcher.
Evidently, Matheny doesn’t understand this concept. The Cardinals have carried regular season starter Shelby Miller on their playoff roster but have not used him, citing a dead arm. Without a long man, Matheny has stubbornly tried to squeeze extra outs from his starters, and for the second time in a row, that decision hurt him.
On the other hand, the Red Sox gave struggling starter Clay Buchholz a quick hook, and led by Felix Doubront, their bullpen combined to throw five innings, surrendering just one run.
Red Sox fans might have written Doubront off after he posted a 9.77 ERA in September, but he played a very important role in Sunday night’s game. It’s clear manager John Farrell has more trust in him than Ryan Dempster. With Buchholz hurting, and with Jake Peavy‘s recent ineffectiveness, Doubront could start a Game Seven.
Red Sox hitters have managed just a .189/.268/.307 line during the World Series. Take out the contributions of Ortiz, and these number sink to .138/.222/.252. Still, thanks in large part to Doubront, the series is tied 2-2, with a guarantee of more home games for the Sox.