LOS ANGELES — For the first five innings of the fourth game of the World Series, the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers looked as though they were shaking out cobwebs from the previous night. The game was scoreless, almost hitless. The plate appearances were fast, the swings slow. The 18-inning, nearly 7½-hour slog of Game 3 lurked as an explanation, an excuse.
They were just sandbagging. This was the World Series, a pivotal game at that, and fatigue was not going to keep the Red Sox and Dodgers from engaging in another test of wills. This one didn’t last as long. It was every bit as intriguing.
The Dodgers, high on a late lead, primed to tie the series, suffered an egregious collapse. The Red Sox stormed back from a four-run deficit to plate nine runs over the final three innings and stun Los Angeles with an 9-6 victory, taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The 54,400 at Dodger Stadium watched the dissolution of the lead with the visage of a crowd at a horror film. Ahead 4-0 following a spirited sixth inning, the Red Sox clawed back with a three-run home run from Mitch Moreland off reliever Ryan Madson, whose ineffectiveness this series – seven of seven inherited runners have scored – made for the immediate second-guessing of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
His bullpen did him no further favors. In the eighth inning, closer Kenley Jansen, coming off a two-inning outing in Game 3, yielded a game-tying home run to Steve Pearce. And then came the ninth, a run-scoring bonanza in which Boston went ahead off a pinch-hit single from Rafael Devers, blew it open with a bases-clearing double by Pearce and cherry-on-topped it with another run.
Over the first six innings, Boston managed just one hit off Dodgers starter Rich Hill. It took them only seven to put up the nine-spot, and despite a two-run home run from Kiké Hernández off Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning, the Red Sox held on and sealed the best of their 10 postseason victories thus far – and the first they had won without scoring first.
A night after losing the longest playoff game in history, it was a testament to the Red Sox’s fight. Particularly after that sixth inning, when they put themselves in a four-run hole.
Arms outstretched, vocal cords working overtime, mission accomplished, Yasiel Puig started perhaps the biggest 360-foot trot of his career. By the time his bat had stopped flipping in the air, Eduardo Rodriguez’s glove was bouncing off the ground, the frustration clear. Red Sox manager Alex Cora had tempted fate again and again with Rodriguez, leaving him out for the fourth, fifth, even sixth despite the fact that he hadn’t thrown more than 50 pitches since Sept. 20.
In the sixth, Rodriguez hit leadoff batter David Freese. Justin Turner doubled him to third. After an intentional walk to load the bases, Cody Bellinger smashed a one-hopper to first baseman Steve Pearce, who tried for a 3-2-3 double play. The throw from catcher Christian Vazquez back to Pearce skipped past first, eluded Brock Holt and allowed Turner to score the game’s first run.
Rodriguez stayed in. Puig took a strike and three balls. He wiggled his butt. Then he clubbed a three-run home run deep into the left-field bleachers. Dodger Stadium shook. The series looked tied.
The Red Sox, of course, spit at looks. They looked like they were on the same level as the New York Yankees coming into the season. They ran away with the American League East. They looked like they were not as good as the Houston Astros. They manhandled them for the pennant. They looked tired Saturday.
And then came one of the great comebacks in franchise history. Down four runs, nine outs to go, and this. Moreland. Pearce. Devers and Holt. Not Mookie Betts or J.D. Martinez or Andrew Benintendi or Xander Bogaerts, the ones around whom the Red Sox are built. The secondary players – sometimes the tertiary – all part of this amazing team that can clinch its fourth championship in 15 years Sunday.
They will send a rested-and-ready Chris Sale to the mound to face Clayton Kershaw, whom they stared down in Game 1 and knocked out after four innings. They’ll do so knowing what they proved Saturday night: With these Red Sox, anything is possible.
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