LOS ANGELES — Where does a World Series game go as it careens into its eighth hour and its 18th inning, after two great teams, the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, had whittled down to the worn, splintered ends of their rosters? What could possibly come next, in this epic Game 3, after two run-scoring throwing errors in the 13th inning, one of which broke a tie that had lasted for five tense innings, the other of which, an out away from completion, tied it again? When closure came, would anyone trust, in their delirium and exhaustion, that it was real?
By a certain point, one that had long since zoomed past by 12:30 a.m. Pacific time, it became clear: Game 3 wouldn’t produce a winner and loser, only one depleted survivor and a hopeless victim, chosen as much by random whim and red blood cell count as by skill.
Congratulations, Dodgers. You won Game 3. Now what?
As Max Muncy’s opposite-field homer cleared the wall in left-center, giving the Dodgers a 3-2 victory, they huddled and hugged briefly near home plate, then hustled quickly off the field, the sound system blaring “I Love L.A.” The Red Sox trudged toward the visitors’ dugout, led by pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, who surrendered Muncy’s homer on the 97th pitch of a remarkable, gutsy relief appearance.
The longest World Series game in history ended 7 hours 20 minutes after it started. Baseball doesn’t stage doubleheaders in the postseason — but it did, unwittingly, Friday night. Anyone who was still watching on the East Coast when Muncy homered, at 3:30 a.m., raise your hand. You might have a problem.
Assuming everyone can find it in them, there will be a Game 4 on Saturday night along Vin Scully Avenue. The Dodgers were expected to send veteran lefty Rich Hill, whom they somehow didn’t deploy in Game 3, to the mound — but at 1:27 a.m. Pacific, they sent a tweet from their official account saying their Game 4 starter was officially “TBD.” As for the Red Sox, it will come down to lefty Chris Sale, their Game 1 starter, on short rest, or lefty Drew Pomeranz, their break-in-case-of-emergency option.
“There were guys lining up at my office [offering] to start” Game 4, Red Sox Manager Alex Cora said. “We’ll be fine.”
The Red Sox deployed nine of the 11 pitchers on their roster and all 14 of their position players; the Dodgers, nine of their 12 pitchers and all 13 position players. Red Sox infielder Eduardo Nunez sacrificed his body during a series of painful adventures that had him, at various points, writhing in the dirt, tumbling into the stands and face-planting across the mound in pursuit of a pop-up — but unable to come out of the game because the Red Sox had no more position players.
“He’s like, ‘I’m not coming out,’ ” Cora said of his conversation with an injured Nunez. “I said, ‘Well, you can’t come out. We have no more players.’ ”
While the Red Sox blew through their pitchers early and often, leaving right-hander Eovaldi, two days after a relief appearance in Game 2, to take one for the team, the Dodgers saved enough manpower that they were able to bring in a fresh pitcher, lefty Julio Urias, in the 17th, and yet another, lefty Alex Wood, in the 18th. Also in the 17th, the Dodgers scraped their bench one last time and found someone to pinch-hit: ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw. He lined out.
Eovaldi’s losing effort — six shutout innings, followed by the fateful 3-2 cutter to Muncy leading off the 18th — had his Red Sox teammates on the verge of tears as they contemplated his sacrifice.
“Can’t put it into words,” center fielder Jackie Bradley said haltingly. “Tremendous, amazing, spectacular. I want him on my side 10 out of 10 times. Nothing but love.”
Most in the crowd of 53,114 stayed until the end, despite the fact beer sales were cut off after the seventh inning, leaving a full, nine-inning game’s worth — and then some — of sobriety to endure. In the 17th, when Nunez came to bat, the crowd cheered the hardy visitor, either out of admiration or pity.
A game that cycled through countless stages, with at least as many possible outcomes — a quick, tidy pitcher’s duel, a battle of bullpens, a contest of attrition, a marathon of endurance — became, at one of its several climaxes, a literal comedy of errors.
In the top of the 13th of a 1-1 game, a throwing error on Dodgers left-hander Scott Alexander allowed Brock Holt to scoot home with the Red Sox’s go-ahead run — a moment of catharsis that lasted until two outs in the bottom half of the inning.
One out from victory, and with a runner on second, Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler stumbled as he fielded Yasiel Puig’s weak grounder and never quite caught his footing as he threw to first. The throw was well wide of the bag and hit off the camera well. Muncy, the runner on second, cruised home on the error, and almost immediately a million memories in New England dredged up the name of Bill Buckner.
“It’s tough to swallow,” Kinsler told reporters. “There’s nothing they can say in that room to make me feel better. . . . I had the final out in my glove.”
Two innings later, Muncy was a breath of wind away from ending it with a walk-off homer, but his towering drive to right off Eovaldi in the bottom of the 15th curled just foul of the pole. He would get another chance three innings later. Left-center field, as it turned out, was more hospitable.
Twelve games, three postseason series and three-and-a-half weeks of high-stakes baseball led the Red Sox, finally, to a stadium they couldn’t conquer, a starting pitcher they couldn’t wear down and a tight, late situation they couldn’t turn to their advantage — and finally, a deep and tireless opponent they couldn’t outlast. The loss Friday night punctured the Red Sox’s growing air of invulnerability — but more importantly, it compromised their pitching staff ahead of the next two games, Saturday and Sunday nights.
The Red Sox hadn’t lost a road game since Sept. 23, hadn’t lost any game anywhere since the opener of the American League Championship Series two weeks ago and had appeared almost universally superior to the Dodgers in a pair of wins at Fenway Park this week. Friday night’s marathon, as the teams cycled through nearly every available body and still couldn’t produce an outcome, may have proven definitively how equal these teams really are.
To win this one, the Dodgers had to survive a deflating blown save in the eighth inning by closer Kenley Jansen, a tense matchup of bullpens that stretched deep into the night and one harrowing fly ball to center field in the top of the 10th that nearly produced the go-ahead run for the Red Sox.
With runners on the corners and one out in a 1-1 game, Nunez, pinch-hitting lifted a flyball to medium-shallow center, and Kinsler, inserted as a pinch-runner, tagged from third. The throw from Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger was up the line, but catcher Austin Barnes hauled it in, braced himself against Kinsler’s coming charge and held on for the out.
Seven innings of Walker Buehler’s supersonic heater had left the Red Sox begging for someone, anyone else to face, which may explain why the chunky, bouncy opening chords of “California Love” booming across Dodger Stadium at the start of the eighth inning was music to their ears. There went Buehler, the Dodgers’ flamethrowing rookie right-hander. Here came Kenley Jansen, their closer, for a six-out save.
And there, moments later, went the Dodgers’ 1-0 lead. Bradley, the Red Sox’s center fielder, tied it with a two-out homer in the eighth.
It wasn’t an elimination game for the Dodgers, but it was close. Only one team in postseason history has come back from a three-games-to-none deficit: the 2004 Red Sox, whose veteran pinch-run specialist, Dave Roberts, now manages the Dodgers. He had no interest in trying to do it again.
For seven innings, or the exact length of time the proceedings were graced by Buehler, the game appeared on its way to being a quick, tidy, emphatic win for the Dodgers, with little in the way of drama.
Seven times Friday night, Buehler strode to the mound at Dodger Stadium, picked the ball up off the dirt and commenced putting the Red Sox’s hitters back in their place. Seven times, he descended that same mound — sometimes with a fist pump, sometimes with a howl, sometimes with nothing but a cool, cocky strut — and strode back to the Dodgers’ dugout to rousing applause at the end of another clean inning.
For sheer arrogance of stride, the only other player on the field who could match it was Manny Machado, Buehler’s Los Angeles teammate, as he loafed to first base on a line drive he thought was a homer but actually hit the base of the wall.
For seven innings, at least, the Dodgers had their strut back.
For seven innings, Joc Pederson’s homer off Red Sox starter Rick Porcello held up as the game’s only run.
But as the crowd rose for “God Bless America” followed by “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the middle of that seventh inning, who could have known that, a few hours later, they would be rising again for the 14th-inning stretch — and that, even then, there would be four more innings before, finally, someone figured out a way to end it?
“You look up and see the 18th inning,” Muncy said, “and you’re like, ‘Holy cow, where did the game go?’ ”