World Series Game 3: Max Muncy's walk-off lifts Dodgers over Red Sox ... in 18 innings

MLB columnist
Yahoo Sports

LOS ANGELES — At 30 minutes past midnight local time, the longest game in the 114-year history of Major League Baseball’s postseason ended. The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Boston Red Sox, 3-2, to win Game 3 of the World Series in the 18th inning. To encapsulate this game by a score, an inning or even a time – 7 hours, 20 minutes – did not do it justice.

When Max Muncy hit an opposite-field home run off Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to cause a massive celebration among the many left at Dodger Stadium, it ended a game packed with wild moments and even crazier numbers.

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Just three innings earlier, Muncy had almost yanked a home run down the right-field line off Eovaldi, who was scheduled to be the Red Sox’s Game 4 starter. Not anymore. Not after a brilliant six-inning relief effort that went for naught when Muncy homered – and brought the Dodgers back into the series, as they now trail two games to one.

When Game 3 of began at 5:10 p.m. PT at Dodger Stadium, the sun cast a beautiful shadow over the crowd of 53,114. When it ended, it was with the Dodgers sending a message to the Red Sox and the rest of the baseball-viewing public: This World Series is not over.

Gone is the possibility of a sweep for the Red Sox, who lost for the first time since Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. And considering how aggressively Red Sox manager Alex Cora used his bullpen – he went with nine pitchers, including Eovaldi – Boston heads into Saturday without a clear choice to start. That wouldn’t have mattered nearly as much for the Red Sox with a commanding series lead – the sort that never has been blown in a World Series. Now, the Dodgers, though not in great position, are no longer dead in the water.

It took plenty of heroics beyond Muncy, ones that started in the 13th inning.

With Brock Holt on first after a leadoff walk, Eduardo Núñez, the Game 1 hero with a pinch-hit home run, did almost the opposite: a doinker that may have gone 30 feet. With Muncy pinching in at first, left-handed pitcher Scott Alexander falling off the mound the opposite way and second baseman Kiké Hernández shifted left, it could not have been in a better place.

Max Muncy celebrates his walk-off home run in the 18th inning to lift the Dodgers to a 3-2 win in Game 3 of the World Series.
Max Muncy celebrates his walk-off home run in the 18th inning to lift the Dodgers to a 3-2 win in Game 3 of the World Series.

Núñez busted down to first, and Alexander’s underhanded flip to a running Hernández skipped up the right-field line for an error. Holt rushed home, giving Boston its most important run this series – until the Dodgers answered with their own, which matched the craziness.

In the bottom half of the 13th, Muncy checked his swing on a full-count, 100-mph fastball from Eovaldi to walk and reached second when Núñez fell into the stands catching a pop-up. Rather than intentionally walk Yasiel Puig and pitch to Austin Barnes, Cora went after Puig and saw Eovaldi induce a groundball toward second base. Ian Kinsler backhanded it, stumbled and unleashed an awful throw. Christian Vázquez – a catcher playing first base, because it was that sort of game – couldn’t reach it, and the Dodgers had their own two-out run to knot the game, 2-2.

A fan yawns before the start of the 17th inning in Game 3 of the World Series baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP)
A fan yawns before the start of the 17th inning in Game 3 of the World Series baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP)

The entire charade made the top of the 10th look positively quaint. Cora pinch ran for J.D. Martinez with Kinsler following a walk against Pedro Báez. Kinsler nearly got picked off, then overslid third base and almost got caught off following a single from Holt. With one out, pinch hitter Núñez lifted a flyball to center field. Cody Bellinger, caught in his own baserunning mishap earlier, snagged the ball and unleashed a furious throw home. It pulled catcher Austin Barnes up the line, but it was so strong – and Kinsler so … not-fast – that he was still out close to 10 feet from home plate.

Boston needed heroics of its own for the game to even be tied in the ninth. Shut down for the first seven innings, the Red Sox saw Dodgers manager Dave Roberts deploy closer Kenley Jansen for a six-out save. He didn’t even get halfway there.

With two outs in the eighth and his catcher set up on the outside corner calling for a backdoor cutter, Jansen left the ball over the heart of the plate, and Jackie Bradley Jr. – an ALCS hero for his clutch two-out hitting – walloped it into the right-center-field stands. The crowd fell silent. It was 1-1, thanks to the 10th two-out run of the series scored by Boston.

And it spoiled the brilliant start by Walker Buehler, who became the first rookie to throw seven shutout innings in a World Series game since the late Yordano Ventura in 2014. The Dodgers’ trust in Buehler was obvious. They handed him the ball in Game 7 of the NLCS. While Roberts pulled him after 4⅔ innings there, he showed no compunction during Game 3 in sticking with Buehler when he might have had a quick leash with others.

At 93 pitches after six innings, Buehler entered the seventh with the Red Sox’s 2-3-4 hitters awaiting. Xander Bogaerts lofted a lazy fly ball for an out. Mitch Moreland stared at a 98-mph fastball Buehler painted on the inside corner. And Martinez, the American League RBI leader coming off a 43-homer season, swung feebly at Buehler’s 108th and final pitch, another fastball at 98.

“Walker is battle-tested,” Roberts said. “I think he’s been in some tough spots and really come out on the other side.”

The 108 pitches set a career high for Buehler. They were the high-water mark for any pitcher this October. Los Angeles needed every bit of pitching excellence it could get, with its offense providing next to no assistance. The Dodgers’ lone run through nine came on a Joc Pederson solo home run in the third inning.

From there, Boston’s pitching stood pat. Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly, Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes, David Price – the Game 2 winner as a starter, pitching on one day’s rest – and Craig Kimbrel combined for 5 1/3 shutout innings, extending an excellent postseason’s worth of relief worth for the Red Sox. Then came Eovaldi, who threw 97 pitches before the fateful one to Muncy.

It snapped the Red Sox’s five-game road winning streak this October. Boston won two at Yankee Stadium, including the division series clincher, and three in Houston, locking down the pennant there. They were close to making it a half-dozen in a row and had plenty of opportunity.

The Dodgers ensured they wouldn’t and, in doing so, reminded those who might have doubted them: The Red Sox are not indomitable, not unbeatable and not going to win this World Series with a sweep.

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