2 Games In One: LA Keeps Hope Alive With 18-Inning Win Over Boston
Updated at 4:15 a.m. ET
There wasn't a doubleheader scheduled for Dodgers Stadium on Friday night, but they played one anyway. And if that wasn't enough baseball for you, Game 4 of the World Series starts in Los Angeles in less than 17 hours (8 p.m. ET, Fox).
The longest World Series game ever lasted 18 innings and more than seven hours. Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi threw a nearly flawless seven-inning start, beginning in the 11th inning.
He also unfortunately (if you like record-setting spectacle) or fortunately (if you have a toddler waking up in four hours) threw the pitch that Dodgers infielder Max Muncy launched over the wall and into the trivia books, ending the game 3-2.
By that point, Boston had one pitcher left in its bullpen, Los Angeles two. Neither team had a position player left on the bench — which could have triggered true weirdness if the Red Sox's Eduardo Núñez had taken more damage from any of his many extra-innings tumbles and face-plants.
Before Muncy's smash, four innings had passed by with such little action it began to feel as if the game might never end — like a bad pharmaceutical trip out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas — especially after the surreal 13th inning.
With Boston up, second baseman Brock Holt drew a leadoff walk, then stole second base on a wild pitch by Dodgers pitcher Scott Alexander. As catcher Austin Barnes dug the ball out of the dirt, he flung the Red Sox's Eduardo Núñez — not-really-inadvertently screening Holt's run — over his shoulders, shaking him up.
Núñez bounced a weak grounder that Alexander fielded, but his poor throw to first led to Holt coming around to score. The Dodgers got out without further damage but now trailed 2-1.
Max Muncy drew a leadoff walk of LA's own, then advanced to second after Núñez crashed into the seats catching a Cody Bellinger foul ball. Yasiel Puig hit a hard grounder up the middle for the Dodgers that Ian Kinsler struggled to handle; he threw the ball well wide of first, and like Holt, Muncy came around to score from second.
The Red Sox were pulling out all the stops to bring this series to the brink tonight, and with good cause: No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in the World Series in 24 tries.
The Red Sox almost pulled it off in the tenth inning, as outfielder J.D. Martinez drew a leadoff walk. He was replaced by pinch-runner Ian Kinsler, who was very nearly caught off of first base. But on the very next pitch Kinsler took off running and Holt hammered a hit into centerfield, getting Kinsler to third.
Eduardo Núñez, who hit the three-run home run that put Game 1 out of reach for the Dodgers, got a shallow hit into center field, and Kinlser took off for home — but a pinpoint throw by the Dodgers Cody Bellinger nailed him feet away from the plate.
The first nine innings
The Dodgers got everything they could have wished for out of rookie starting pitcher Walker Buehler: A seven-inning, two-hit, seven-strikeout display of both power — dozens of pitches topped 98 mph — and stamina — his 107th pitch was nearly among them.
But they only managed to get a single run, which means Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.'s eight-inning solo shot off reliever Kenley Jansen effectively erased Buehler's sterling work.
Bradley had a quiet World Series through two games with just one hit, but is coming of an MVP-winning American League Championship Series performance in which he batted in nine runs on just three huge hits, including a grand slam in Game 3 of that series.
Now Los Angeles has to hope their bullpen — unreliable at best in this series — will give them time to scratch out a game-winner in extra innings.
If the Dodgers had trotted out the same lineup as they used in games 1 and 2, they might not have had even that opportunity. Their sole run came on a solo home run by outfielder Joc Pederson off of Red Sox starter Rick Porcello. It was Pederson's fourth home run in his six career World Series starts.
Pederson hit 25 home runs in the regular season, but was one of four left-handed power hitters who spent the early innings of Games 1 and 2 on the bench for Los Angeles, as manager Dave Roberts played the percentages against left-handed Boston starters.
Boston's bullpen, which threw three lockdown innings to choke the life out of the Dodgers in Game 2, has given up four hits and a walk since Porcello left in the fifth inning, but has kept the Dodgers scoreless. It was given an assist in the ninth inning by David Price, who threw six mostly sharp innings on Wednesday as the Red Sox's Game 2 starter.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will have a couple of advantages in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night. To take the title from the Boston Red Sox, they'll need to find a whole lot more.
The series shifts to pleasantly warm Los Angeles after two games in Boston's chill — weather that Dodgers reliever Ryan Madson suggested was partly to blame for his poor performance in both games.
And they'll face right-handed Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello, which means matchup-happy Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will insert the team's top four home run hitters — back into the starting lineup after they started Games 1 and 2 in the dugout. Los Angeles member station KPCC noted that five of the Dodgers' six losses in the postseason have come against left-handed starting pitchers.
But the Dodgers also return to Los Angeles already down 2-0 in the series, a deficit that ESPN reports no team has recovered from since the New York Yankees came back against the Atlanta Braves in 1996.
And as WBUR's Shira Springer noted to NPR's Newscast, the Red Sox haven't lost a single road game yet this postseason.
Sports analyst Mike Pesca tells Here & Now that Boston has dominated the strategy of the series:
"Their manager, Alex Cora, has made all the right choices ... every thing, every move, every pitcher he brought in has worked."
His move to start Friday's game is to put designated hitter J.D. Martinez in left field, moving Andrew Benintendi to the bench. With the series moving to the National League's home turf, no designated hitters will be used.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.