ST. LOUIS (USA TODAY) - The critics were picking out John Farrell's Halloween costume back home. But but the Red Sox manager has maneuvered himself and his team closer to wearing baseball uniforms come the night Game 7 of this World Series is scheduled.
The series is going at least six games – and back to Boston – after Farrell rebounded from a most restless night under the microscope with a 4-2 victory at St. Louis that ties the series 2-2, a win constructed from part gut feeling and maybe a bit of wishful thinking.
Four "how'd-he-do-that" innings from physically-compromised starting pitcher Clay Buchholz paved the way for Jonny Gomes, who has been a Farrell favorite this postseason despite what the stats might sometimes say, to decide the game with a three-run homer in the sixth inning off Cardinals reliever Seth Maness.
"It wasn't a normal night of sleep, I know that," Farrell said of the aftermath of Boston's Game 3 loss when the game-ending obstruction ruling turned out to be the least of his worries. He was still answering questions Sunday about several strategic decisions.
Those back home in New England who couldn't get to him directly still had plenty to say.
One discussion on Red Sox flagship radio station WEEI included wondering if Farrell already was in costume for Halloween – as former Red Sox manager Grady Little, forever vilified around Boston for leaving Pedro Martinez in too long in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium.
No such concerns this night.
Buchholz, dealing with tenderness and tightness in his lat that he says had him at about 80% of his normal strength, somehow gutted out the four innings with a fastball that hovered around 87-88 mph, about 5 mph below his optimal velocity.
"Never one time did I try to overpower anybody," he said. "Just grip the ball and throw the pitch. That was hard enough to do. It's the World Series, It might be the last time it ever happens, hopefully not, but you never know. If I hadn't gone out there and tried, I don't think I could have ever forgiven myself."
Whatever Buchholz was being held together with out there, Farrell was using a similar approach to patch together the 27 outs he needed to avoid going down 3-1 in games with Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha, the Cardinals' two best pitchers, looming Monday in St. Louis and now for sure Wednesday in Boston.
"We knew if we had to piece it together, it would be a little creative," Farrell said.
There's a fine line between creativity and failure in the World Series.
Buchholz's performance was good-news, bad-news.
Just three hits and an unearned run was plenty good enough. Just four innings was another story.
As Farrell had said before the game, "If we have to go to the pen or a pinch-hit situation in the sixth inning, that wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility."
Nor would the fifth inning, which the Red Sox were prepared for.
After Buchholz, it was Felix Doubront – the regular-season starter who pitched two innings Saturday in relief of Jake Peavy.
"We felt like the work he did last night put us in a position where we would hope to be," Farrell said of Doubront.
The Doubront appearance was another calculated gamble, considering it was the first time the lefty has pitched on consecutive days since Sept. 19-20, 2011. And he responded by retiring the first eight batters he faced before leaving after Shane Robinson's pinch-hit two-out double in the seventh.
But then came the one tense moment where Farrell's loyalty suddenly keeps coming back to bite him.
Craig Breslow replaced Doubront and immediately allowed an RBI single to Matt Carpenter and a walk to Carlos Beltran. Breslow, part of Boston's usual three-headed bullpen finishing committee, has made three appearances in this series, allowing three runs, three hits, two walks and a hit batter while getting just one out.
Junichi Tazawa came in to get the final out of the seventh, adding to concerns about how to split the final seven outs between Tazawa and closer Koji Uehara.
Farrell had an answer for that, too.
Not wanting to risk over-using Tazawa, who's been in every game of the series, he went to Game 2 and likely Game 6 starter John Lackey to pitch the eighth, Lackey's first relief appearance since 2004.
"Just trying to help out, trying to win a ballgame," said Lackey, who said there's no doubt he'll be ready Wednesday.
"It is the World Series," he said. "I'll be there."
Of course, like pretty much everything else in this series, his inning wasn't easy – a two-base throwing error by Xander Bogaerts and a wild pitch putting Yadier Molina on third with one out. But Lackey got Jon Jay to pop up and David Freese to ground out, leaving Uehara with a two-run cushion for the ninth.
Lackey shrugged off the tense moment.
"You pitch 200 innings, that's happened several times," he said. "It's not that big a deal. I got through it, got to the closer."
And Farrell didn't even get to see the culmination of his handiwork. With Carlos Beltran at bat as the potential tying run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Farrell was discussing defensive positioning with coaches Brian Butterfield and Torey Lovullo.
They only heard the gasp throughout the ballpark when Uehara picked pinch-runner Kolten Wong off first base to end the game, one last exclamation point that anything Farrell and the Red Sox tried was going to work on this night.
Farrell's should rest better after this one, but there's one more game in the National League park without the designated hitter and with so many of the decisions likely to arise again.
"You review the whole game," Farrell said. "You replay it in your mind. And you learn from the experiences you go through."
Just remember, the educational process in the World Series is strictly pass-fail.