Red Sox rally to stun Dodgers, reach brink of World Series

Rebecca BRYAN
AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) - The Boston Red Sox, fueled by homers from Steve Pearce and Mitch Moreland, erased a four-run deficit to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-6 and move to the brink of a ninth World Series crown.

Moreland smashed a three-run pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning and first baseman Pearce belted a game-tying solo shot in the eighth and a three-run double in the ninth as Boston seized a 3-1 lead in Major League Baseball's best-of-seven championship final.

The Red Sox, who boast an imposing 6-1 road record this post-season, can wrap up a ninth World Series title, and a first since 2013, with a victory in game five at Dodger Stadium on Sunday.

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After outlasting Boston 3-2 in an 18-inning game three marathon on Friday, the Dodgers looked poised to build on that victory when Yasiel Puig clubbed a three-run home run off Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to cap a four-run sixth inning for Los Angeles.

Rodriguez, who made a brief appearance out of the bullpen in game three and became the first pitcher since 1924 to start a World Series game on zero days' rest, was up to the task through five innings.

But he hit David Freese to lead off the sixth before Justin Turner smacked a one-out double just inside the third base line. Pinch runner Enrique Hernandez reached third and the Red Sox intentionally walked Manny Machado to load the bases with one out.

Cody Bellinger hit a ground ball to Pearce and the throw home caught Machado at the plate. But catcher Christian Vazquez's throw back to first for an attempted double play was off target, allowing Turner to score the game's first run.

That brought up Puig, who raised his arms as he rounded the bases while Rodriguez, who had scattered just two hits over five scoreless innings, threw his glove on the ground in disgust as the ball sailed into the left field bleachers.

It was Puig's second home run of the post-season -- after his three-run blast in the Dodgers' game-seven victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Championship Series.

It ignited the Dodger Stadium crowd, but their euphoria was short-lived.

- 'Big swing' -

The cushion was all but gone an inning later thanks to Moreland's 437-foot pinch-hit blast off Dodgers relief pitcher Ryan Madson.

Madson was the third pitcher of the inning, brought in after Dodgers starter Rich Hill walked Xander Bogaerts and struck out Eduardo Nunez and reliever Scott Alexander walked Brock Holt.

Moreland drilled the first pitch he saw from Madson over the wall in right field.

"Anytime you come up with a situation like that, you want to make something happen," Moreland said. "We kept grinding and kept grinding, and finally gave ourselves an opportunity by putting some guys on base and (I was) able to capitalize and get a good pitch in and put a swing on it."

Until then, Red Sox manager Alex Cora admitted, Boston had been flat, partly, perhaps, a hangover from the 7-hour, 20-minute game three but mostly because Hill had given them no opening, allowing just one hit over 6 1/3 innings.

"We felt that we had no energy, actually none whatsoever," Cora said, adding that Puig's shot had a further depressing effect.

"But one thing about our team, we keep playing," Cora said. "It's been like that the whole time. We know that in the last third of the game we've been really good throughout the season, in the playoffs, and Mitch with a big swing and that got us going."

- Tough loss -

With the lead down to one, Roberts turned to Kenley Jansen to pitch the eighth and the Dodgers closer gave up a game-tying solo homer to Pearce, the second batter he faced.

The Dodgers threatened in the bottom of the eighth but pinch hitter Yasmani Grandal struck out to end the inning stranding runners on first and third.

Boston took the lead for the first time in the ninth inning, when Rafael Devers' singled in the go-ahead run off reliever Dylan Floro.

Pearce added a three-run double and scored on Bogaerts' single to stretch the lead to 9-4 as the Red Sox battered the Dodgers bullpen.

Dodgers pinch hitter Enrique Hernandez raised hopes of an improbable comeback with a two-run homer in the ninth, but Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel held on for the final three outs.

"It is a tough loss," said Roberts, whose Dodgers were the only team this season not to lose a game when leading by four runs.

"Any loss in a World Series is difficult, obviously," Roberts said. "But now we're in a situation where we're do or die.

"To their credit, they fought back and won a baseball game. So now we've just got to bow our necks and try to win a baseball game and it's one day at a time."

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