ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Judging by the way St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn stormed off the mound when he was taken out in the sixth inning of Game 4 on Sunday night, you thought steam might be coming out of his ears.
“It’s the World Series,” he said. “If you don’t want to pitch in the World Series, you can go right home.”
One batter after Lynn was taken out, he would have more reason to be upset.
The man who replaced him, rookie reliever Seth Maness, served up a homer to Jonny Gomes that also scored two base runners he had inherited from Lynn. The three-run blast lifted the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory and evened the World Series at two games each.
It also put manager Mike Matheny on the defensive for his pitching moves in the decisive sixth inning.
Even though Lynn had labored through a 29-pitch fifth inning, Matheny sent him out for the sixth. That decision looked like a good one when Lynn quickly got two outs. But then Dustin Pedroia singled softly to left center and the inning got away from Matheny and the Cardinals.
Although lefty specialist Randy Choate was warmed up, Matheny did not call on him to face lefty slugger David Ortiz.
“He was ready; we just weren’t going there,” Matheny said.
That decision was understandable in part because no one is getting Ortiz out these days. Left in to face the big lefty, Lynn threw him four balls in what was as intentional an unintentional walk as you’ll see.
“I’m not one to be dumb. I’m not going to let that guy beat me in that situation,” Lynn said.
Although putting on Ortiz resulted in part of the Cardinals’ trouble, it was the right play. Ortiz has reached base in 12 of his 16 plate appearances so far in the Series, including all four in Game 4.
“If he doesn’t leave the ballpark, it’s a good night,” Lynn said.
But Lynn, at only 89 pitches, did not get another chance to escape the inning. As often as Matheny leaves in his pitchers to show his belief in them, he did not let Lynn face Gomes. Lynn was visibly upset by the manager’s decision.
“As a competitor, you want to have that opportunity to pitch yourself out of that inning,” he said. “You do everything you can. You go out there and give it everything you’ve got. It just didn’t work out.”
Explained Matheny: “We were fortunate to get out of (the fifth) with just a run. He (Lynn) worked hard out there. Got into another bind in the sixth, which is the spot we keep our eyes wide open, and took a shot and it didn’t work.”
So why Maness?
“Seth has been a guy who’s been able to help us out and do an incredible job in that situation all season long,” Matheny said. “He’s been able to come in and get the big out when we needed it, and we wanted to give him a shot. It just didn’t work out.”
As effective as Maness was in the regular season, he has struggled in the postseason. Unlike most of the Cardinals’ relievers, Maness doesn’t have the power arsenal that tends to play in the playoffs.
“I’m not a guy who can pitch up in the zone,” he admits.
When he missed with a 90-mph sinker to Gomes, the Cardinals’ 2-1 lead was gone and their 2-1 lead in the Series would be history soon enough, too.
“I put it on a tee for him” Maness said. “I left the ball up and right down the middle.”
Lynn gave the Red Sox very little to hit through the first four innings. He allowed a single — to Ortiz, of course — but faced the minimum on 50 pitches, 46 of them fastballs.
“For me, I would have liked for 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.”
Lynn slipped a bit in the fifth when he loaded the bases with no outs on a double by Ortiz and two walks. But, impressively, only one run scored and the Cardinals still led.
“That was pretty huge,” Lynn said.
It was big enough to earn him a chance to start the next inning, just not big enough to give him a chance to finish it. The way it turned out, Lynn had every reason to be upset.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.