Muncy homer in 18th gives Dodgers life with epic Series win

LOS ANGELES — With a Cody Bellinger throw and a Max Muncy blow, the Los Angeles Dodgers have crawled back into the World Series. It only took the longest game in the history of the Fall Classic to do it.

Muncy’s dramatic opposite-field home run in the 18th inning off Boston’s Nathan Eovaldi lifted the Dodgers to a will-testing 3-2 win in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday, cutting the Red Sox’s lead in the World Series to 2-1.

It was L.A.’s first walk-off Series win since Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 homer against the Oakland A’s in 1988, which sparked the Dodgers to their last title. Muncy became the first player to hit a game-ending homer in a World Series game since former Cardinal and current Dodger David Freese in 2001.

It also was an act of mercy for everyone on hand at Dodger Stadium and watching on TV. The homer ended a game that lasted seven hours and 20 minutes and ended at 3:20 a.m. in Boston. The time of game would have been long for a doubleheader. It also was the longest World Series contest by innings.

According to Stats, Inc., the game took longer than the entire 1939 World Series, when the Yankees swept the Reds in a combined seven hours, five minutes. A record 46 players appeared in the game — 23 for each team. There were two stadium-wide renditions of “Take Out to the Ballgame,” in the middle of the seventh and 14th innings. One fan in the left-field bleachers may or may not have read all 1,225 pages of Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.”

The game endured despite several near-misses at ending it in a time more in tune with a human scale.

One game-extending moment happened in the 13th, when the Dodgers tied it on an error. With Muncy on second base and the Red Sox one out away from seizing a 3-0 lead in the series, Yasiel Puig hit a ground ball up the middle. Boston second baseman Ian Kinsler stumbled while making the play and threw wide of first baseman Christian Vazquez, allowing Muncy to race home with a season-saving run.

The stunning turnaround came minutes after Boston had taken a 2-1 lead when Brock Holt scored from second base on a throwing error by Dodgers reliever Scott Alexander. If the game had ended that way, it would have been the first game-winning run to score on an error in a World Series game since Game 6 in 1986 — the Bucker Game that lives in infamy in Red Sox lore.

Instead of exorcising that particular demon, the Red Sox now have to wonder if some new ones have been stirred up.

In a sense, Bellinger helped set up the winning run eight innings earlier with a defensive gem in the 10th inning. With runners on the corners and one out, Boston pinch-hitter Eduardo Nunez lofted a high fly ball to medium-depth center field.

Bellinger backed up on the ball so that he could catch it with forward momentum, did so and uncorked a rocket throw to catcher Yasmani Grandal that beat pinch-runner Kinsler by a full step and sent the Dodger Stadium crown into a frenzy.

The play was reminiscent of another great throw in a World Series by a Dodger outfielder. In 1974, Joe Ferguson gunned down Oakland’s Sal Bando in Game 1 of that Series in what some saw as the greatest throw in Dodgers history. If it was No. 1, Bellinger may have bumped it down a spot.

It also was redemptive for Bellinger, who was picked off first base by Boston’s David Price with the game tied in the bottom of the ninth.

Muncy just missed being the hero in the 15th when he whacked what would have been a no-doubter down the right-field line that just curled outside of the foul pole.

Boston tied the game in the eighth on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s two-out solo homer to right off Dodgers relief ace Kenley Jansen. The blast gave Bradley three homers and 10 RBIs with two outs this postseason.

Bradley became the fourth player in Red Sox history to hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning or later of a World Series game. It was the first such homer for Boston since Bernie Carbo’s famed blast in Game 6 in 1975.

That Bradley was even in the Boston lineup was yet another feather in the cap of Boston manager Alex Cora, who has been drawing plaudits for his decision-making all October. Needing to find a way to keep J.D. Martinez’s bat in the lineup, most thought the likely odd man out would be Bradley. Instead, Cora stuck with his regular center fielder and brought Andrew Benintendi off the bench.

The home run off Jansen spoiled a gem of an outing by Dodgers rookie Walker Buehler. Vicious is really the only word to describe Buehler’s outing.

Buehler was in command from the start, striking out Mookie Betts to begin his Series debut and fanning Martinez to end it. Buehler threw a career-high 108 pitches, his count driven up by 26 foul balls by the disciplined Red Sox lineup. As it turned out, fouling balls off was about all Boston’s league-best offense could do against Buehler.

Joc Pederson gave the Dodgers the only offense they could muster early in the game when he yanked a Rick Porcello pitch over the fence in right field with two outs in the third. It was L.A.’s first hit of any kind since Puig’s RBI single in the fourth inning of Game 2.

Pederson has turned into a home run king in October over the last two World Series. He now has four homers in the Fall Classic, tied for third-most in Dodgers history with Gil Hodges. Game 3 was only his sixth career World Series start.

Boston managed just two singles against Buehler and didn’t get a runner to second base against him. Buehler struck out seven, making him the first rookie in postseason history to have four or more outings with that many Ks. He also became the second-youngest Dodger with a scoreless World Series start. Johnny Podres was 23 when he did it in Game 7 of the 1955 Series.

After lackluster performances from the Dodgers’ middle relievers in two losses at Boston, L.A. manager Dave Roberts thought he discovered the perfect antidote. After Buehler finished his seven innings, Jansen was called in for the six-out save. One Bradley swing spoiled the scheme.

The win allowed the Dodgers to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole that only the 2004 Red Sox — with the help of a famous stolen base by Roberts — have climbed out of. Instead of responding to questions about that long-ago miracle comeback, Roberts can now focus on the Dodgers’ quest to even the series in Saturday’s Game 4.

That is if Roberts, and his team, wake up in time for the late-afternoon game.

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