Really? Not to get through this thing called Game 3? The “Let’s Go Crazy” part of the evening arrived for the Los Angeles Dodgers a few innings later, in the bottom of the 18th inning of the longest game in World Series history — the longest by far in innings or time, a prodigious, preposterous, 7-hour 20-minute monstrosity.
That’s when, at 12:30 a.m. Pacific time — or 3:30 a.m. on the East Coast — Dodgers slugger Max Muncy hit a leadoff homer over the left-center field fence off Nathan Eovaldi, who was starting his seventh inning in relief, for a 3-2 victory that cut the Boston Red Sox lead in this series to two games to one.
It’s over. At least I think it’s over. Please tell me it is.
The harder-won a victory, the more the victors think it means. And sometimes that conviction carries weight of its own.
“Whoever came out of this on top was going to have a lot of momentum,” a quietly cheerful Muncy said, too drained to show excitement. “Both teams used every player they had, almost every pitcher. There were injuries. You have to feel it gives you momentum going into the next one.”
Though many millions of fans, in almost every time zone, except Hawaii, will think of this game only as a rumor, or a squandering of many hours before finally heading to bed, the large majority in this Dodger blue crowd of 53,114 almost surely will think of it as one of the most memorable sports crescendos they have seen.
“There were still 40,000 people in this park when it ended — after what, more than seven hours? What a great Dodger win,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said. Then he added, “Our bullpen is actually in pretty good shape for Game 4.”
“L.A. has a reputation: Show up late, leave early,” Muncy said. “Tonight, they were here early and stayed late — and they were loud until the end.”
Game 4, and a test of the notion of Dodgers momentum, was set to begin just 16½ hours after Muncy touched home plate, with L.A. left-hander Rich Hill facing Boston left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. The Red Sox burned up their scheduled Game 4 starter, Eovaldi, with marathon relief, and even used Game 2 starter David Price for three batters at one point.
In retrospect, Roberts was masterful in spacing out his relievers. Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez and Kenta Maeda each worked two innings. Dylan Floro got five outs. But others had modest work. Boston’s rookie manager, Alex Cora, would, ironically, also have a semi-rested bullpen — because he burned up seven relievers so quickly that they shouldn’t have been too tired Saturday.
There are two theories about this game. First, this contest — remarkable, comical at times and outlandish as it was — will be little noted or long remembered because the Red Sox are better, the Red Sox still led this series and they will finish the job. So just pretend this whole fabulously ridiculous thing never happened.
Forget the matching solo homers by Joc Pederson and Jackie Bradley Jr., which constituted the only scoring in the first 12 innings. Don’t fret too long about the pair of unearned runs in the 13th inning — one for each team — that were nearly identical gifts built on leadoff walks and concluded by wild infield throws (Scott Alexander, Dodgers; Ian Kinsler, Red Sox) that brought the ill-gotten runs home.
The second theory would be reality-tested soon. This view holds that brilliant Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler, a rookie with raw stuff as good as any pitcher in the game and tons of poise, too, changed the momentum of this series with his seven scoreless innings, allowing just two Red Sox to reach base, both on harmless singles. He completely dominated the best offense in baseball.
That matters, with double force, because Buehler would be scheduled to pitch a Game 7, if the Dodgers can get there. Yes, it would be “Walker Buehler’s Day On.” And if he duplicates Friday’s performance, they may have to make a Hollywood flick about it.
For those who wonder whether a powerful Game 3 showing by a star pitcher can swing a whole World Series, even if that ace’s team trails by two games when he takes the mound, I refer you to Game 3 of the 1978, 1981 and 1985 World Series. Ron Guidry, Fernando Valenzuela and Bret Saberhagen were the complete-game star pitchers for the Yankees, Dodgers and Royals. All three of their teams came back to win the series. The Yankees and Dodgers did it by winning four straight. That’s a “mo” switch. And it was tied to those pitchers.
Buehler did not get this win because Jansen blew the save on Bradley’s homer. But the tall 24-year-old right-hander may loom in Red Sox minds with thoughts of a Game 7 showdown.
The theory that this series swung toward the Dodgers has a second strong underpinning. In the bottom of the 12th, Cora may have lost his mind.
With an excellent chance that his Red Sox eventually would win this series regardless of the outcome of Game 3, Cora decided to play double-or-nothing, a strategy that, heretofore, was unknown to the sport. Cora brought in his projected Game 4 starter, Eovaldi, to try to go for a three-game lead and the jugular.
Why? In part, it was because Cora had burned up his pitching staff like Cecil B. DeMille killing off extras in a Roman Coliseum. After going through eight pitchers, Cora had only ace Chris Sale and humble left-hander Drew Pomeranz still left. So he rolled the dice with Eovaldi, who has been powerful as a starter but in spot duty in relief, too.
Eovaldi was wonderful, pitching six scoreless innings before Muncy sank him and escaping a couple of modest jams. But the Red Sox now have a weak matchup, at least on paper, for Game 4. Did Cora accidentally misplace two games in one night? Very careless.
In the 15th inning, Muncy hooked a long blast just barely foul down the right field line. He missed ending the game by perhaps a yard or two. “I had hopes,” he said, but experience told him the ball was foul. Then he fanned.
By the 18th inning, “I was thinking, ‘Where did the game go?’ ” Muncy said, adding that the nine extra innings became a blur. “But there was no deflation, no give-up. When they got that one [run in the 13th], there was no panic and we got one back.
“In a game this big, just playing five innings exhausts you. Playing 18, both sides must be feeling it. . . . We had to have this to get us back in it.”
At 12:30 a.m. in Los Angeles, 7 hours 20 minutes after the first pitch, enough time for two long games in 2018 or at least three games (heck, maybe four) back in 1916 when these two franchises last met in the World Series, Muncy connected on a 90-mph cutter and drove it over the left-center field fence. Eovaldi, who began his night touching 100 mph several times, was “down” to just 96.5 mph and using his cutter more.
“He had really good stuff all night. But he finally threw a cutter that got back over the plate,” Muncy said. And Max mashed it.
Two Red Sox climbed the wall. Neither returned with a ball.
Some say that Dodgers fans are not hardcore. Well, they certainly were on the one infernally long night when the Dodgers most needed them not to be fickle and head for the parking lots. This ballpark was more than three-quarters full when the Dodgers danced at home plate to mob Muncy.
For one team, it truly was time for “Let’s Go Crazy” at last.