ST. LOUIS — The only thing that's supposed to matter in baseball, especially at this time of year, is the collective result — did your team win or lose? And yet, no other team sport exposes the individual as much as baseball does. Kolten Wong of the St. Louis Cardinals realized that all too well after he got picked off first base to end Game 4 of the World Series, a 4-2 victory for the Boston Red Sox. And before Wong, there was right-hander Lance Lynn.
Capping what otherwise was a sound performance Sunday night, Lynn's last duty against the Red Sox in the top of the sixth inning was to pitch around slugger David Ortiz, giving him the old "unintentional intentional walk" to put runners at first and second. But rather than being allowed to pitch out of the jam — as happened in the fifth — St. Louis manager Mike Matheny went to the bullpen for reliever Seth Maness.
Lynn, as he usually does when Matheny comes with the hook, did not react well to the change. He resisted, protested and snarled so anyone watching him could see.
"Well, yeah," Lynn said. "I’m not happy when I come out of a game, ever. That’s just part of being a competitor. If you want out of a game, you shouldn’t be out there, ever. That’s just my opinion."
Asked by a reporter if he were especially mad being told to go in the dugout, Lynn further justified his demeanor.
"It’s the World Series," Lynn said. "I mean, if you don’t want to pitch in the World Series, then you can go right home."
(That quote needs be on a T-shirt, right next to "Wacha Wacha!")
Not only was Lynn being forced to leave, but then he had to watch Boston take the lead from the bench when the next batter, Jonny Gomes, cranked a non-sinking sinker from Maness into the visitors bullpen for a three-run homer.
The harsh spotlight had switched over to another individual.
"Sometimes you get away with those," Maness said. "A lot of times you’ll miss (location) up and someone might pop it up, someone might swing through it. Good hitter, more times than not, you’re not going to get away with it. It happened sometimes in the regular season as well. A guy like me can’t pitch up in the zone.
"I was ready to come in and face him. Just missed a spot."
Lynn wanted it to be himself on the mound, not someone else. Regardless, he's saddled with the loss.
"As a competitor, you want to have that opportunity to pitch yourself out of the inning," Lynn said. "You’re trying to do everything you can not to give up a run that inning. Seth Maness has been great for us all year. It’s just one bad pitch and it happens. You can’t do anything about it — it’s just baseball."
And Lynn had been cruising, allowing only an infield single to Ortiz through the first four innings. He had extra zip and movement on his fastball, and relied on it, throwing it 46 times in his first 50 pitches.
"For me, I would have liked it to be 50 out of 50," Lynn said. "You come out of the bullpen and you see what’s working. I had life on the fastball and we went with it."
Asked about the indignity of his last assignment being to pitch around a batter — albeit Ortiz, who has a .727 batting average in the World Series — Lynn said that didn't make him feel any worse. At least at the time.
"I’m not one to be dumb," Lynn said. "I’m not going to let that guy beat me in that situation. That’s just the way it is. I’m not going to let him hit a two-run homer right there. You don’t let him leave the ballpark. If you don’t let him leave the ballpark, it’s a good night."
And that's where another cruelty of baseball lies. Lynn did his job, and his team still lost. Another individual at the mercy of the collective result.
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