ST. LOUIS — Add this to the list of unusual things we've seen in this year's World Series: The Boston Red Sox used three starting pitchers in their Sunday night 4-2 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4.
Each of them, actual starter Clay Buchholz and starters-turned-relievers John Lackey and Felix Doubront were key to the Red Sox victory that knotted the series at two and ensured that it will return to Boston for a Game 6.
Buchholz wasn't at his best. We all knew that. He's hurt. This was his last outing of the season and he was throwing everything he had left. As much as his velocity dipped and he looked like he could implode at any moment, Buchholz turned in four innings that didn't bring disaster. Only one Cardinals run, in fact.
Then came Doubront, who started 26 games this season for Boston, but was great in relief in Game 3 and great again in Game 4. He set down eight Cardinals in a row at one point. Catcher David Ross called Doubront Boston's MVP for the night, in addition to home-run hitting Jonny Gomes.
After bullpen regulars Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa helped Boston escape a seventh-inning jam, Lackey came in for the fourth relief appearance in his 11-year career. He started Game 2 for the Red Sox and is scheduled to start Game 6. Lackey, however, decide to put his scheduled throwing day to a more important use and pitched a scoreless eighth inning to set up closer Koji Uehara.
"Just trying to help out. Just trying to win a ball game," Lackey said afterward. "I told the manager [Saturday] I was available and wanted to help out."
Lackey ran into a bit of trouble, with Yadier Molina reaching on an error, then advancing to third on a wild pitch. The Red Sox were up 4-2 with the tying run batting twice in the inning. Lackey shut things down, though, getting Jon Jay to pop up and hero-prone David Freese to ground out. Afterward, Lackey shrugged off the drama.
"When you pitch 200 innings most years, you have to do that several times. It's not that big a deal," Lackey said, as if he weren't pitching in the World Series.
Asked about being ready for Game 6, Lackey fired back, "Ohh, I'll be there."
Doubront, meanwhile, was hopped up on adrenaline and fueled by the big stage, he said. He hadn't pitched on consecutive days since 2011, but he delivered.He allowed two hits in 4 2/3 innings combined in Games 3 and 4.
Doubront's performance makes him the first pitcher in 10 years to pitch two innings or more in consecutive World Series games since Jose Contreras did it in 2003 for the Yankees.
"I want to be in the game," Doubront said. "I want to be a part of the team, to win the game ... When I got the opportunity, I was so focused in."
The larger point here is that the Red Sox weren't holding back in Game 4. They knew the stakes. A loss would have meant facing Adam Wainwright in an elimination game on Monday at Busch Stadium. A win meant at least one game in Fenway this year.
"It's all hands on deck," Ross said. "It's the World Series. You gotta have a sense of urgency."
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