That was a classic, but the Red Sox ended up on the wrong end of it. There’s really no quick synopsis I can give in this space to do this game justice. It was one of the most incredible baseball games we’ll ever see, not even because of quality of play or anything like that but rather due to the sheer will to go on. Neither offense wanted to do a thing, and neither pitching staff was ready to give in. If you’re looking for goats on the Red Sox, it’s clear. Ian Kinsler made the catastrophic mistake that extended this game, and Mookie Betts — and really the whole top half of the lineup — was nonexistent. Meanwhile, the Red Sox burned their entire pitching staff — including losing pitcher Nathan Eovaldi who deserves to be recognized as anything but — in a losing effort. It was an amazing game to watch, but a crushing game to lose.
During the regular season, the Red Sox offense was fearsome against right-handed pitching and merely fine against left-handed pitching. Now, their relative lack of success against southpaws was a bit skewed, both by Steve Pearce only being in town for the second half and also because they were absolutely roasted by Blake Snell all year. He single-handedly brought down their numbers against lefties. Still, this was a team that was much more comfortable against righties in 2018 despite their best bats all hitting from the right side.
So far in this series, things have not gone that way. Three of the Dodgers four starters in their playoff rotation throw from the left side, and the Red Sox won against two of them at Fenway. Of course, they didn’t really get to Hyun-Jin Ryu all that much, but they did plate some runs when they needed them. That came after they put on a good show against Clayton Kershaw, who may be down from his peak but is still pretty damn good. So, with the offense having to feel pretty good about itself, it was going up against a righty. Good news, right?
Walker Buehler had better ideas. The Dodgers lone right-handed starter has long been one of the most talented young pitchers in the game, going from stardom at Vanderbilt to first round pick to top prospect to cog in a World Series rotation. He looked every bit the part in Game Three of the Fall Classic against this intimidating Red Sox lineup.
The first inning was seemed encouraging for a bit, even if Boston went down in order to start this game. Mookie Betts started out 0-2, but worked a full count and a nine-pitch at bat before striking out. Xander Bogaerts had a similar at bat, and Mitch Moreland fouled off a bunch of pitches and worked a full count before flying out to end the inning. Surely, the Red Sox would have preferred some base runners, but they were able to fight off some nasty stuff from Buehler and made him throw 26 pitches.
Unfortunately for Boston, they couldn’t continue that trend and turn it into opportunities after that. The Dodgers righty started to settle into a groove after that, and they had another 1-2-3 inning with the middle of the order.
The third was their best chance off Buehler to that point in the game, and it was also the most frustrating by a long shot. Jackie Bradley Jr. gave the Sox their first baserunner of the evening with an infield single, and with Christian Vázquez coming up it looked like a prime opportunity for some hit-and-run action. That was likely the idea, but Bradley broke for second before Buehler started his motion and he was caught stealing/picked off easily. That was a big first out. Vázquez, to his credit, to work a strong at bat and ended up with a single to left field, but despite the ball getting by Joc Pederson the Red Sox catcher was not able to advance to second. He would get into scoring position on a Rick Porcello bunt, but Betts flew out to deep center field to end the inning without any damage.
After that threat, it was back into cruise control for Buehler. He came back with dominant 1-2-3 innings in the fourth, fifth and sixth to keep the Red Sox off the scoreboard. The righty had one more inning left in him and tossed another perfect inning in the seventh to cap off an absolutely masterful performance.
Meanwhile, Porcello was looking to match the pace put forth by his counterpart against a desperate lineup that is much better against righties than it is against lefties. In fact, by wRC+ they were the best lineup against right-handed pitching in all of baseball this year. For a pitcher with some home run issues, this was certainly going to be a challenge, but Porcello was up for it.
His first two innings went mostly according to plan, though his opening frame was somewhat similar to that of Buehler. The Dodgers worked some counts, including an inning-opening strikeout that took nine pitches, but ultimately Porcello allowed just a walk before throwing a 1-2-3 second.
In the third, the Red Sox starter made his big mistake of the evening, and it was a costly one. After getting two easy outs to start the inning and look towards a quick second, Pederson stepped to the plate. The Dodgers outfielder has big-time pull power and kills mistakes, and we saw both of those things with one swing. Porcello made a disaster of a pitch, leaving a changeup right smack in the middle of the zone, and Pederson launched it out to right field. It was a no-doubter, and it gave Los Angeles the 1-0 lead. Justin Turner then followed that up with a double — that was assisted by some J.D. Martinez defense in left field, to be fair — before getting out of the inning with just the one run crossing the plate.
The good news is Porcello didn’t let that snowball later in his outing. He came back with a 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, before getting the call again in the fifth. The righty allowed a leadoff single in that inning before getting two more outs. That brought Pederson back to the plate with one on and two outs, and Alex Cora didn’t want a repeat performance. He brought in Eduardo Rodriguez, who did his job and got the inning-ending strikeout.
With the Dodgers still leading 1-0, Joe Kelly came on for the sixth. He looked good yet again, though he did give up some hard contact to Manny Machado. The shortstop blasted one off the wall in left field, but he was busy admiring his work and settled for a single on the play. It didn’t end up mattering being Cody Bellinger popped up after that, but it was still satisfying.
The Red Sox were finally going to have a chance at the Dodgers bullpen in the eighth, but first in the bottom of the seventh it was Ryan Brasier’s job to keep the deficit at just a run. The righty had to labor a bit and did allow an infield single, but that was all. He did his job and kept the deficit at one.
Boston now had said chance against the bullpen, but L.A. went right for their closer with Kenley Jansen coming on for the eighth. The Red Sox were excited to see a pitcher that wasn’t named Walker. Jansen looked dominant in the first two at bats, getting two outs including a totally overwhelming strikeout against Rafael Devers. Then, Jackie Bradley Jr. stepped to the plate. The man just does clutch, and with a 2-0 count he got a cutter over the plate belt-high. He got his arms extended and sent it out over the wall in right field. Boom. Tie game.
So, with a brand new ballgame underway, Matt Barnes came on to face the top of the Dodgers lineup in the eighth. Like Brasier before him, he had to work a bit in this inning but he did the job. After allowing just a base hit, he got through a scoreless inning and gave his offense a chance to take a lead in the top of the ninth.
Jansen was back on the mound for the Dodgers in that top of the ninth, and Andrew Benintendi was in to pinch hit as the leadoff man. He went down swinging, and Jansen was able to come through with a 1-2-3 inning.
L.A. now had a chance to walk it off, and the Red Sox turned to David Price in a bit of a surprise appearance to try and force extras. With just one day of rest after throwing 88 pitches in a Game Two start, he started off by allowing a leadoff single to Bellinger. After getting the first out of the inning, Price caught a huge break when Bellinger broke too early on a steal attempt, and got an easy second out. After walking Yasmani Grandal, however, Price’s night was done and Craig Kimbrel was coming on with a runner on first and two outs. The closer came in and walked Chris Taylor, and that put the winning run in scoring position for Brian Dozier. Fortunately, the inning ended with a pop up behind the plate.
That brought Pedro Baez into the game in the top of the tenth, and with one out Martinez drew a walk. He was lifted for Ian Kinsler as a pinch runner, and Kinsler almost got picked off at first base. The play was challenged, but he was ruled safe. On the next pitch, Brock Holt came through with a base hit on a hit-and-run, and that put Kinsler on third (after he inexplicably overslid the bag by a mile) with one out and Eduardo Núñez coming in to pinch hit for Devers. Núñez did his job and got a fly ball, but it wasn’t deep enough for a no-doubt sac fly. Kinsler had to go for it, but Bellinger made a great throw from center field up the third base line, and he nailed Kinsler for the third out of the inning. It was not a great baserunning inning for the pinch runner, but he had to go for the plate there and he just got beat by a strong throw. It happens.
So, the Dodgers had another chance at a walkoff in the bottom of the tenth, and Kimbrel was back on the mound. After getting the first two outs, Kimbrel got two strikes on Max Muncy before the Dodgers infielder ripped one into the right-field corner for a groundrule double. That put the winning run in scoring position for Machado, who hit an easy pop up on the infield to end the inning.
After Boston managed just a walk in the eleventh, Heath Hembree was coming on for the bottom half of the inning. He walked a batter and needed 25 pitches, but he got out of the inning without a run.
That brought Ryan Madson, he who blew the first two games of this series for the Dodgers, into the game for the 12th. He only faced one batter, getting an out then getting out of there. Scott Alexander then came on and finished off the inning.
In the bottom of the inning, Cora went all-in again and brought Nathan Eovaldi out of the bullpen with Christian Vazquez being double-switched over to first base. Eovaldi tossed a 1-2-3 inning, and we were on to the 13th.
There, we finally got some action. Holt led the inning off with a walk to bring Núñez back up to the plate. Alexander’s first pitch was in the dirt, and Holt read it right away to advance to second. Núñez was up-ended by Austin Barnes on the play, but with the Red Sox being out of position players he had to stay in the game. He did, and he hit a little chopper to the pitcher. Núñez had to race to first base, and he slid in and hurt himself again. Meanwhile, the throw to the bag got away and Holt came around from second to score. The Red Sox were up 2-1. Sandy León later came through with a big double into the right field corner, but Núñez could barely move and was unable to score. Eventually, the bases would load up for Bogaerts but he couldn’t come through.
So, Boston settled for the one-run lead and Eovaldi was back out on the mound to try and close it out. Things started off with a leadoff walk, and after a fly out Bellinger hit a pop up in foul ground on the left side. Núñez went all out again, this time ending up in the stands on a catch for the second out of the inning, though Muncy did get to second on the play. Then, disaster struck. Puig hit what should have been a game-ending ground ball to second base, but Kinsler lost his footing and his throw was way off the mark. Muncy came around to score to tie the game. It was, to put it simply, an inexcusable and costly play by the Red Sox second baseman. He rushed the throw and had way more time than he thought. Even if he slipped and there was no recovering, he has to eat the ball. One could argue that they should have pitched around Puig, but they got what they wanted. They just couldn’t finish the play.
Anyway, this game was now heading to the 14th inning. And then, we went to a 15th inning. Here, the Red Sox got their first two runners on when Núñez reached on an infield single and Bradley drew a walk. That led to a bunt attempt from Vazquez, but Kenta Maeda made a great play coming in from the mound and got Núñez at third to nullify the sacrifice attempt. Eventually, it was up to Betts with two on and two out. He couldn’t come through, continuing an awful game with a strikeout to strand the runners.
From here, we fast-forward all the way to the 18th inning. Eovaldi was still on the mound and neither team had really even threatened since that 14th. It felt like something had to give at some point soon, though it felt that way for hours at this point. It gave. Muncy led off the inning, and he got a 3-2 cutter belt-high on the outside corner. He was ready for it, and he crushed it out to left field for a walkoff blast. Game over. Night over.
So, the Red Sox have no choice but to try and bounce back from this one on Saturday in Game Four. They’ll be going up against Rich Hill with....well, who knows who will start for Boston. First pitch is at 8:09 PM ET.