ST. LOUIS - David Ortiz deserves a lot of love for his performance in the Red Sox's 4-2, World Series-tying victory on Sunday night at Busch Stadium.
He'll get it here; a little later on.
In the immediate, the focus will be on Jonny Gomes and an unsung hero, Felix Doubront.
The Red Sox are two wins away from the franchise's third world championship in 10 seasons. This, despite an offensive output offensive to the sensibilities.
Boston is hitting a collective .223 in the playoffs. After a solid start against the Rays (38-133 - .286), the Red Sox have been stifled by the Tigers (39-193 - .202) and the Cardinals (24-127 - .189) through four games.
There is one offensive area in which the Red Sox are thriving: the timely, usually multi-run home run.
This is where Gomes comes in. His three-run, sixth inning blast off Cardinals reliever Seth Maness broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Red Sox the 4-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish. The home run was Gomes' first of the postseason. It was Boston's fourth hit of the game. The Sox would finish the night with a total of six hits.
Gomes joins David Ortiz (Game 2, ALCS, game-tying grand slam,) Mike Napoli (Game 3, ALCS, solo home run) and Shane Victorino (Game 6, ALCS, go-ahead grand slam) among Red Sox players with big home runs on otherwise dry offensive nights this fall.
Funny thing, Gomes wasn't supposed to start. He was a late addition to the starting lineup when Victorino went down with lower-back pain.
"I was notified about halfway through batting practice," said Gomes. "Like I said earlier, it's all I fought for this year; just the opportunity. So when my number is called, I'm stepping up. I'm not dodging any situation. Obviously a little different pregame than playing and not playing so I kind of got changed real quick."
Doubront, a 26-year-old left-hander who won 11 games for a second-straight regular season, authored 2 2/3 innings of one run, one hit ball in relief of Clay Buchholz, who was removed for a pinch hitter in the fifth. To be clear, Doubront was dominant. He exited in the seventh after allowing a two out double and was tagged with a run when Craig Breslow, who's had a bad series, coughed up a single to the first hitter he faced.
Doubront threw 32 pitches, all the more impressive considering he'd thrown two scoreless innings on 25 pitches the night before. Remember, he's accustomed to starting. Pitch, rest and prepare for four days and then pitch again. The routine is different and requires mental and physical adjustments.
His performance gave Gomes the opportunity to be the offensive hero.
"I was pretty much focused," said Doubront. "And when I got my time, when I got that opportunity to go up there and do my job - you know, as a reliever - now I was feeling pretty good. And like I say, focus and try to get serious and give my teammates the opportunity to score more runs and win the game."
Meantime, Ortiz, after struggling to just two hits in the ALCS (yes, one of them was that important grand slam) is suddenly red hot and should Boston win the series, would cement his status as one of the greatest Red Sox of all time.
Ortiz had three hits and a walk in four plate appearances and scored two runs. He's 8-12 (.667) and has drawn four walks in the World Series. In 16 plate appearances, he's been on base 12 times.
He was seen in the dugout giving a rah-rah speech to teammates before the start of the sixth inning, at the time the game was tied 1-1, and while it's foolish to believe the talk propelled Gomes' home run ball over the fence, it offered insight into his willingness to allow his mouth, along with his play, to do the talking.
"Through five innings we got two hits and he's got both of them," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "His career states what he's done. He's a tremendous hitter at any point in time in the year. Playing first base has certainly not affected it in any way. He'll be back in there (Monday) at first."
With the victory, the Red Sox assured this series returns to Fenway Park and perhaps more importantly, returns to American League rules. The Cardinals will have to beat a Boston lineup that will include Ortiz and Mike Napoli, not one or the other.
We're down to a best of three.