For 14 highly scrutinized October games Mike Matheny sidestepped mines that wounded or took out many of his counterparts. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly hurt himself and his team by prematurely lifting first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for a pinch runner in what ended as a 13-inning loss in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. As recently as Saturday night's postgame, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell sat at a dais and admitted missing an obvious chance to double-switch lefthanded reliever Brandon Workman into the eighth inning of a tied tilt. Sunday night -- Game 4 of the World Series -- the Moment came looking for Matheny. It found him going against convention and severely punished him. Five pitches after the Cardinals manager lifted starting pitcher Lance Lynn from a two-out, sixth-inning threat, Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes crushed a three-run home run off rookie reliever Seth Maness that broke a 1-1 game and stood up in the visitors' 4-2 win. Gomes' home run was the inning's second stunner. The first was the decision to replace Lynn after he allowed a two-out single and followed orders to pitch around first baseman David Ortiz. Lynn yelled, stalked to the back of the mound and was already on his way to the dugout when Matheny came for the ball. "I'm not happy when I come out of a game, ever," Lynn asserted when reminded about his post-Papi body language. "That's just part of being a competitor. If you want out of a game you shouldn't be here." October had been good to Matheny. If he's been bruised during the tournament, it was for sticking too long with starter Joe Kelly and previously exiled reliever Edward Mujica in a NLCS Game 5 loss. If there was any sin attached, it was venial, forgotten and forgiven after the Cardinals' Game 6 clinch. This time he moved too quickly. Appearing for the first time in 12 days, Lynn threw fastballs on 46 of his first 50 pitches. He faced the minimum number of hitters through four innings. The Red Sox used a leadoff double and back-to-back walks to create a bases-loaded jam with no one out in the fifth. Lynn wriggled free with one run allowed. The Cardinals aren't operating with margin for error. They managed five hits and were held to fewer than three runs through nine innings for the seventh time in 15 postseason games. They remain stuck on one home run for the Series -- Matt Holliday's ninth-inning solo shot in Game 1 that cut into an eight-run deficit. Everything about pitching has become magnified, placing Sunday's aggressive move to the bullpen under a neutron microscope. Lynn typically is an easy read. He makes little attempt to mask frustration on the mound. He gets hit around when he loses command of his fastball. There was none of it Sunday as he pitched assertively. Lynn thought he brought better stuff than in his Game 4 win over the Dodgers in the NLCS. He took a ground ball off the shoe for the Red Sox' first hit. Ortiz (who else?) gapped a double to start the fifth. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia's sixth-inning single was more lob than line drive. Still, the fifth inning made more of an impression on Matheny than his pitcher. "We were fortunate to get out of the one inning after double, walk, walk with just one run. He worked hard there," Matheny said. "He got into a bind in the sixth inning, which is the spot where we keep our eyes open, and we took a shot. It didn't work." Good decisions work, bad ones don't. The Cardinals may well go on to win this World Series in six or seven games. However, they won't win it in five due to the damage Gomes inflicted upon Maness in the tell-all sixth. Blame it on the guy who didn't take the bat off his shoulder in the inning. Ortiz represents an immovable object to the Cardinals, who failed to retire him in four plate appearances Sunday. Big Papi's legend would boast three more RBI this Series if not for right fielder Carlos Beltran reaching over the bullpen wall in Game 1. Big enough to embrace any situation, Ortiz stands 8-for-11 (.727) with four walks in the four games. His mere presence turned Sunday's sixth inning upside down. "I'm not one to be dumb," Lynn said. "I'm not going to let that guy beat me in that situation. I'm not going let him hit a two-run home rum there."
Mysterious moves by Matheny
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | Oct 28