ST. LOUIS – It's difficult to imagine Sunday night's fourth game of the World Series unfolding in a more dramatic fashion than Saturday's 5-4 Cardinals' win.
St. Louis won in walk-off fashion, to take a 2-1 series lead, when Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks was ruled to have obstructed with base runner Allen Craig.
The game also featured a questionable decision by Boston manager John Farrell to allow his relief pitcher, Brandon Workman, to hit with one out in the ninth inning of a tie game.
We also saw two bullpens, both strong at the back end, cough up runs. Set up men Carlos Martinez (St. Louis) and Craig Breslow (Boston) struggled and each of Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara (Boston) and Trevor Rosenthal (St. Louis) allowed inherited runners to score.
Tonight is as close as it gets to a must-win for the Red Sox without the math actually requiring a victory. The prospect of being down 3-1 and with Cardinals' ace Adam Wainwright scheduled to pitch Monday's Game 5 in St. Louis is not appealing to the American League representatives.
Game 4 Preview:
Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz (Regular season: 12-1, 1.74, 1.025 WHIP in 108.1IP; Playoffs: 3GS: 0-0, 5.40, 1.440 WHIP in 16.2IP)
There isn't a St. Louis player who's faced Buchholz in a major league game.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, whose errant throw to third base precipitated the obstruction call against Will Middlebrooks to force home St. Louis' winning run in Game 3, will be replaced behind the plate by David Ross.
It's more likely that Saltalamacchia's offensive struggles have contributed to manager John Farrell's decision making. Saltalmacchia has struck out a whopping 19 times in 32 postseason at-bats.
Manager John Farrell says his entire bullpen is available for tonight's game and also suggested he could turn to Game 2 starter John Lackey for an inning, if necessary.
Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn (Regular season: 15-10, 3.97, 1.314 WHIP in 201.2IP; Playoffs: 3G, 2GS, 2-1, 5.40, 1.971 WHIP in 11.2IP)
Six Red Sox position players have a combined 15 career big league at-bats against Lynn. Only David Ross has an extra base hit (double).
Allen Craig, who scored Game 3's winning run in dramatic fashion, appeared to reinjure his sprained foot on the play. Manager Mike Matheny confirmed Craig underwent an x-ray, which confirmed there were no breaks. Craig will continue to be available in a pinch hit role.
Shortstop Pete Kozma, who's hitless in eight World Series at-bats, will sit in favour of Daniel Descalso.
Game 4 Prediction:
It's hard to get a read on Lance Lynn at the moment. No doubt, he's a talented young pitcher, but he's been vulnerable in this postseason as his numbers suggest.
The Red Sox likely will have to piece it together. Clay Buchholz is working through shoulder stiffness, which becomes an increasing problem as the game goes on. If Buchholz is limited to five innings and 80 pitches, or thereabouts, look for Ryan Dempster to back fill.
With so many variables, we're looking at another game decided by the bullpens and because of that, St. Louis will win and take a stranglehold on the series. Final score: 7-5.