For so many reasons, what Jonny Gomes did in Game 4 of the World Series wasn't supposed to happen.
What he did, of course, is smash a three-run home run in the sixth inning to put the Boston Red Sox up 4-1 in a game they hung on to win 4-2, thus evening the best-of-seven set with the St. Louis Cardinals at two games apiece.
The circumstances under which Gomes did the above? Well, unlikely would be an understatement.
Let's start with this most basic fact: Gomes wasn't even supposed to be playing Sunday night. The original lineup had Shane Victorino in right field, Daniel Nava in left and Gomes on the pine—until it was revealed that Victorino had been scratched due to a bad back, oh, about 90 minutes before the start of the game.
With Victorino hurt, Nava shifted over to right field and was moved to the two-hole in the order, opening up left for Gomes, who hit in the fifth spot behind David Ortiz.
"Since I signed up for this team, all I wanted was the opportunity," Gomes said afterward, per Ian Browne of MLB.com. "Whether it's pinch-hit, start, anything, I just wanted to be in the box."
Gomes was in the box, despite the fact that he hadn't exactly been hitting all that well this October. In fact, the 32-year-old veteran was just 5-for-34, which translates to a .147 batting average, including 0-for-9 in this very World Series prior to his sixth-inning at-bat.
And it should also be pointed out that in his postseason career up to that very plate appearance, Gomes was exactly 5-for-41. That's a .122 average, which was the worst among active players with at least 40 playoff at-bats.
Gomes had also managed all of two extra-base hits in his October career, neither of which, by the way, was a home run.
Beyond all this, Gomes was the first batter to face reliever Seth Maness, who entered for Lance Lynn after the Cardinals starter got two outs on the first two batters of the sixth before allowing a single to Dustin Pedroia and a walk to Ortiz.
Nevermind that the righty-swinging Gomes had never hit against the right-handed Maness. Nevermind that Maness had allowed all of four home runs in his 65.2 innings between the regular and postseason, with only two coming in his 170 plate appearances against right-handed hitters.
And nevermind that, as proved by his 68.4 percent ground-ball percentage—second-highest in the league among qualified relievers—Maness is one of the ultimate groundballers around.
Talk about the perfect time for one of the most unlikely first postseason homers of a player's career.
And now, because all of those circumstances somehow came together and resulted in Gomes' tie-breaking, game-winning homer, the pressure is back on the Cardinals.
Even though the series is tied at two and there's still one more game in St. Louis, the Cards can't afford to go to Fenway down three games to two. The Red Sox have been too good at home all year long, starting with their 53-28 mark during the season—best in the American League—and continuing into October, during which they are 5-2 at Fenway Park.
Game 5, then, becomes as close to must-win for the Cardinals as a contest can be without being a literal must-win. And they'll have to deal with Boston's ace left-hander Jon Lester, who only hurled 7.2 scoreless innings in his Game 1 victory.
While there's likely to be plenty of residual scrutiny surrounding the alleged foreign substance on Lester's glove from that one, St. Louis has to make sure to focus on Lester's other hand. That's because the Cardinals have struggled against southpaws all season, hitting just .238/.301/.371 against them from April through September and an even-worse .219/.283/.290 in October.
St. Louis will counter with its own ace in righty Adam Wainwright, who was far from sharp in losing to Lester and fell victim to the Cardinals' sloppy defense in Game 1.
Between that contest's batch of errors and misplays; the Red Sox's ill-advised errant throw that cost them Game 2; the epic, unprecedented, game-ending obstruction call in Game 3; and, now, Gomes' heroics in Game 4, this World Series is proving one thing:
There's no such thing as "supposed to happen."
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