ST. LOUIS — Jonny Gomes was not supposed to start for the Red Sox in Game 4 of the World Series Sunday night. But when Shane Victorino’s lower back tightened up, he was put in the lineup 90 minutes before first pitch.
The fill-in became a hero. Gomes belted a three-run home run in the sixth inning that propelled the Sox to a 4-2 victory before a crowd of 47,469 at Busch Stadium.
The Series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 here Monday night and Game 6 back at Fenway Park Wednesday night.
“The one thing I’ve always wanted out of this game was the opportunity, whether that was a uniform, whether it was a pinch hit, whether that was to get a start,” Gomes said. “So I got that opportunity tonight and the one thing you can guarantee is when I’m in the lineup, I’m going to be swinging.”
Once Gomes gave the Sox a lead, five relievers combined on the final 12 outs.
Felix Doubront, the winner in relief of Clay Buchholz, worked into the seventh inning. Junichi Tazawa got a huge out in that inning, leaving two runners stranded.
Game 2 starter John Lackey, making his first relief appearance since 2004, worked around an error in the eighth inning and walked off the mound pounding his fist into his glove after stranding a runner at third.
From there, Koji Uehara closed the Cardinals out for his sixth save of the postseason.
Uehara allowed a one-out single by pinch hitter Allen Craig. With two outs, Uehara picked off pinch runner Kolten Wong with the dangerous Carlos Beltran at the plate.
There was no signal from catcher David Ross or the bench. Uehara just decided to try it.
“I did it on my own,” he said through an interpreter. “I wasn’t looking at first base at all. I just threw it.”
Perhaps something on the scouting report tipped Uehara off?
“I don’t read the scouting reports,” Uehara said with a laugh.
Game 3 ended on an obstruction call that gave the Cardinals a run. This time it was a pickoff.
“That was awesome. It was kind of like last night,” Ross said. “I bet they’re dumbfounded like, ‘What just happened?’ ”
David Ortiz was 3 for 3 with a walk for the Red Sox and scored two runs. He is 8 for 11 in the series with four walks, two home runs, and five RBIs. His teammates are 16 of 116 (.138) with Gomes having the only other home run.
Yet the Series is a best two out of three with two games in Boston.
“What’s going on here is pretty special,” Gomes said. “Magical.”
The Red Sox trailed, 1-0, through four innings against Cardinals starter Lance Lynn, a No. 4 starter they were making look like an ace. Lynn was working on a one-hitter and had thrown only 48 pitches.
The Sox started percolating in the fifth inning when Ortiz doubled to the gap in right. Gomes and Xander Bogaerts walked to load the bases.
Stephen Drew, 4 for 45 in the postseason to that point, swung at the first pitch and hit a fly ball to left field just deep enough to score Ortiz and tie it.
With two outs in the sixth inning, Lynn allowed a Dustin Pedroia single to center field. The Cardinals pitched around Ortiz and walked him. With two on and two out, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny went to righthander Seth Maness to face Gomes.
The 2-and-2 pitch was a sinker that stayed up in the strike zone and Gomes launched it into the Red Sox bullpen in left field for his first career postseason home run.
Gomes was 1 for his last 18 before the homer and had not driven in a run in the postseason since Game 1 of the Division Series. But when needed, as was often the case during the season, Gomes delivered.
“His importance to this team goes above and beyond the numbers that he puts up,” manager John Farrell said.
Buchholz, tired arm and all, started for the Red Sox and went four innings, allowing one unearned run on three hits. He walked three and struck out two, throwing 66 pitches.
The Red Sox could have used a few more innings but Buchholz pitched well considering only seven of his pitches hit 90 miles-per-hour and none were above that. He was able to get two turns through the lineup on guile. The Cardinals scored in the third inning. Matt Carpenter singled to center and took second when Jacoby Ellsbury bobbled the ball. It was the sixth error of the Series for the Sox.
Carpenter scored when Carlos Beltran singled to center.
The Red Sox turned to Doubront in the fifth inning and he retired the first eight batters he faced before pinch hitter Shane Robinson doubled with two outs in the seventh.
Farrell took another shot with lefthander Craig Breslow, who pitched poorly in Games 2 and 3. This time Breslow allowed an RBI single by Carpenter and walked Beltran.
But Matt Holliday grounded to second facing Tazawa.
Doubront pitched on consecutive days for the first time since Sept. 19-20, 2011. He threw two scoreless innings Saturday night, allowing one hit. Over the course of the two games, he threw 57 pitches.
Doubront was a starter all season and reluctantly went to the bullpen for the postseason. But he delivered crucial innings.
“I want to be part of the team to win the game. I was relaxed and doing my job,” Doubront said.
Before they took the lead and changed the course of the Series, Ortiz gathered the players at one end of the dugout and shouted words of encouragement.
“Inspirational,” Ross said. “He talked and we listened.”
Said Gomes: “It was like 24 kindergartners looking up at their teacher. He got everyone’s attention.”
Ortiz felt like something had to be said.
“Like I told my teammates, if you think you’re going to come to the World Series every year, you’re wrong,” he said. “Take advantage of being here.”Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.