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Red Sox continue to show us why we love sports

Posted by Adam Kaufman  October 28, 2013 08:42 AM

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Call it a total team effort. Call it winning by committee. Maybe the Red Sox even took a cue from former Bruin Nathan Horton and brought some of their dirty water to the Gateway City.

Whatever the case, this is a lot of fun.

Once again, Boston was led by a cavalcade of unlikely heroes on the way to a 4-2 win in Game 4 to even the World Series on Sunday night, and the story was as compelling as the outcome.

Jonny Gomes wasn’t supposed to play – or, start, anyhow – but Shane Victorino’s chronic back tightness thrust Gomes into the lineup, where his sixth inning three-run home run broke an 0-for-9 slide at the plate and proved to be the back-breaking difference for the Cardinals.

“All I’ve fought for in this career of mine is just the opportunity,” said Gomes, who learned of his assignment during batting practice. “When my number’s called, I’m stepping up. I’m not dodging any situation.”

An inning prior to that game-changing blast, the Sox evened a 1-0 deficit with a sac fly from Stephen Drew – the same guy who was mired in a hapless 4-for-45 slump and hadn’t driven in a run in 11 games.

Even in the hours before Clay Buchholz took the mound, folks not-so-quietly questioned whether he would pitch and, if he did, how well and for how long. He wasn’t Pedro Martinez in 1999 or Curt Schilling in 2004, but his sore right lat muscle was able to provide four innings of one (unearned) run ball and average velocity before he gave way to the bullpen.

There, Felix Doubront and John Lackey, both starters by trade, carried the load as five relievers combined to finish off the win.

Doubront – the same guy who expressed his disinterest in pitching out of the pen as recently as last month and barely made the playoff roster – toed the rubber on consecutive nights for the first time in his big league career. He was effective, efficient, and arguably should have pitched longer.

Lackey hadn’t pitched in relief in nine seasons and, fittingly, the last time he did so in the postseason was as a rookie in the 2002 World Series. A scoreless eighth inning was a perfect way to spend a typical off-night for Fenway's Game 6 starter.

“I told the manager yesterday that I was available and wanted to help out if he needed me,” the veteran said after the win.

These are your 2013 Red Sox. A different hero or collection of miracle men every night, motivated by winning, an all-hands-on-deck approach, and a complete lack of ego.

We all remember when Jacoby Ellsbury ran all over the Rays in the opening round of the postseason, and Xander Bogaerts’ veteran eye at the plate against the Tigers.

There was when David Ortiz changed the fate of the Red Sox with his game-tying grand slam late in Game 2 of the ALCS after failing to record a hit in the series in six previous tries, or when a struggling Jarrod Saltalamacchia ended that affair with a walk-off single. We can’t forget Mike Napoli’s game-winning homer off of Justin Verlander that represented the only run in the next game, or Victorino’s 2-for-23 drought-ending slam in Game 6 of the ALCS.

Those are just some of the highlights among a roster of 25 men who have all received a beard-tug, high-five from Koji Uehara, or a warm dugout embrace at some point in the last few weeks for a hit, a pitch, a defensive gem, or maybe just saying the right thing at the right time.

At its core, the fun is derived from winning. But the not knowing what to expect, where the spark will come from, or who we'll be praising the next morning is arguably as enjoyable.

We love sports for the drama and unpredictability, for the way a simple game will affect our temperament for hours on end. It deprives us of sleep, affects our appetites, and gives us more stress than a mortgage payment. We’ll cheer, yell, or scream at the television while our kids are trying to sleep, or put ourselves through compulsive routines with the hope and belief that we actually make a difference. All for a game that we didn’t play, which features a bunch of guys who most of us have never met. Just because they happen to be wearing our favorite laundry.

And it all starts with rooting for the unthinkable, and then marveling at or chastising the unforeseen.

A game ending in a pickoff with the opponents’ best player at the plate and a chance to end the game, one night after a contest concludes with an obstruction call? Any of us would have predicted at least 100 ways for either game to end before arriving at such a seemingly ridiculous notion.

When the Red Sox and Cardinals take the field for Game 5 tonight, half of the excitement is that almost anything could happen.

Jon Lester could wield a shutout or, heaven forbid, get shelled in a third of an inning. Ellsbury could take Adam Wainwright deep to start the game or make a jaw-dropping diving-catch to save a run. Someone who wasn’t supposed to enter the game may just be responsible for its defining moment. You can’t even count against Drew delivering a three-hit night. Well, at least not with certainty.

“Everyone’s ready on this team,” said Napoli, who hammered a key three-run double in Game 1 but has done nothing in seven at-bats since. “We prepare every day. We go out there and take our groundballs, flyballs, BP, and we prepare ourselves to play and we’re always ready. It’s nothing new to us.”

But what you see tonight, that will surely be new – and hopefully something that will allow us to sleep soundly.

Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.

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