By Greg Beacham, AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — An 18-inning loss in Game 3 of the World Series couldn’t wear out the Boston Red Sox. A four-run deficit late in Game 4 definitely didn’t faze them.
This plucky powerhouse just kept getting big hits to move to the brink of another championship.
Steve Pearce hit a tying homer in the eighth and a three-run double in the ninth, and the Red Sox emphatically rallied for a 9-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.
Pinch-hitter Rafael Devers singled home Brock Holt with the tiebreaking run in the ninth as Boston roared to a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven matchup.
“I’ve never been on a team where you just get punched in the face and then come back tomorrow and act like they are totally fine,” Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez said. “It’s impressive.”
Game 5 is Sunday at Dodger Stadium, where the Red Sox can close out a spectacular season with their fourth title in 15 years. Boston picked Game 2 winner David Price to start on short rest against fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw.
Soon after Yasiel Puig’s three-run homer in the sixth put the Dodgers up 4-0, Boston’s incredible surge began with pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland’s three-run homer. By the time they were done decimating the Dodgers’ bullpen, six Red Sox had combined for seven hits — four for extra bases.
Boston scored just two runs in its first 24 innings at Dodger Stadium, but added nine more in the last three innings of Game 4.
“Sometimes in October we talk about mechanics, and how you feel at the plate and all that, (but) sometimes it’s will,” manager Alex Cora said. “You will yourself to do great things. And it started very simple. A few good at-bats, and then the big swing, and we kept rolling and we didn’t stop playing.”
The Red Sox will have trouble topping this performance, in which they overcame a three-run deficit in a World Series game for the second time. Boston also rallied from three down against Cincinnati in 1975 in Game 6, best known for Carlton Fisk’s dramatic homer in the 12th after Bernie Carbo tied it with a three-run shot.
Pearce was an unlikely candidate to become the latest postseason hero in Boston’s long October history, but he did it twice. The 35-year-old journeyman connected off All-Star closer Kenley Jansen for the tying homer in the eighth, and cleared the bases one inning later with a double to the gap.
The superlative Boston roster that won 108 regular-season games and then rolled through the 100-win New York Yankees and defending champion Houston Astros to win the AL pennant is now one win from this formerly tormented franchise’s ninth World Series crown.
Enrique Hernandez hit a two-run homer in the ninth for Los Angeles, which could become the first team to lose the World Series on its home field in back-to-back seasons since the New York Giants lost at the Polo Grounds to the Yankees in 1936 and 1937.
“We’re not out yet,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Our guys aren’t done. We’ve got our best going tomorrow and we’re expecting to win a baseball game.”
Devers added a big defensive play in the ninth when he slid to stop Manny Machado’s hard grounder at third before throwing across the diamond to get the Dodgers slugger for the second out. Craig Kimbrel then got Cody Bellinger on a fly to end it, leaving Puig in the on-deck circle.
Less than 17 hours after Max Muncy’s 18th-inning homer for the Dodgers ended the longest game in World Series history at 7 hours, 20 minutes, the teams were back on the field in Chavez Ravine. That epic defeat could have sapped many teams’ strength, but the Red Sox shrugged it off — although they waited until the seventh inning to get going.
“It was just a loss,” Cora said of Game 3. “I think for everybody else it’s a crushing loss, but after the game we were up 2-1 (in the Series).”
Game 4 took only 3 hours, 57 minutes, but had at least as many dramatic twists.
Muncy went 1 for 5 after his early-morning heroics for the Dodgers, who must overcome a 3-1 deficit to end their 30-year championship drought. Only six teams have accomplished the feat in the World Series, although the Chicago Cubs did it just two years ago.
After Dodgers starter Rich Hill baffled Boston with one-hit ball into the seventh, Los Angeles was up 4-0 and needing just seven outs to even the series. Instead, the Dodgers’ embattled bullpen was shredded by Boston’s bats.
Moreland got the comeback started with his three-run shot off Ryan Madson after Xander Bogaerts and Holt drew walks. Moreland’s homer was only Boston’s second hit of the game.
“Anytime you come up with a situation like that, you want to make something happen,” Moreland said. “But we had two guys go up there and build an inning before me, and just we kept grinding and kept grinding, and finally gave ourselves an opportunity.”
Pearce then repeated the Game 3 feat of Jackie Bradley Jr., who also hit a tying homer off Jansen in the eighth.
Dodger Stadium was already rumbling with tension and fear when Holt doubled in the ninth off losing pitcher Dylan Floro. Devers sent him home with a single — and three batters later, Pearce cleared the bases.
After Pearce arrived at second and Martinez was intentionally walked, Martinez used his hands to make a heart and mouthed “I love you!” to Pearce. Both men cracked up.
Pearce even scored Boston’s ninth run on Bogaerts’ single, celebrating wildly with his teammates in quiet Chavez Ravine.
Joe Kelly was the winner after tossing two shutout innings.
Pitching dominated early in Game 4 on the second straight postcard-perfect night at Dodger Stadium.
These big-budget lineups combined for just three hits in the first five scoreless innings — and they needed only about 90 minutes to play them after Friday’s 440-minute affair.
After throwing just six pitches of relief in Game 3, Eduardo Rodriguez largely stymied the Dodgers over the first five innings.
Hill was also dominant early in his third career World Series start, allowing no hits until Christian Vazquez’s single in the fifth.
The Dodgers finally got going in the sixth when Rodriguez plunked leadoff hitter David Freese with a pitch near the knee and Justin Turner doubled. With the bases loaded, Bellinger grounded to first and Boston got the force at home, but Vazquez’s throw sailed past first base and down the right-field line, allowing Turner to scamper home.
Puig then crushed a 92 mph fastball deep into the left-field bleachers, raising his arms in triumph while Rodriguez slammed down his glove in pure frustration. The ebullient Cuban right fielder has gone in and out of favor in Los Angeles, but his homer was his 50th postseason hit, fourth-most in Dodgers history.
Hill walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh, but left to a standing ovation with one out.
The LA bullpen that threw 11 innings of five-hit ball in Game 3 only needed to get eight outs — but it didn’t happen. The struggling Madson left a changeup over the middle to Moreland, who bashed it into right for his first homer this postseason.
The Dodger Stadium stands were packed with iconic Los Angeles athletes from Sandy Koufax and Magic Johnson to Kobe Bryant, who read the Dodgers’ starting lineup before watching from the front row in a Machado jersey. For the first pitch, Dennis Eckersley took the mound in an Athletics jersey for a toss to Kirk Gibson, whose game-ending homer off Eck in the 1988 World Series still looms larger than Muncy’s blast in Dodgers history, depending on the outcome of this series.
STARTING FROM ZERO
After throwing just six pitches in Game 3, Rodriguez threw 93 in Game 4. The left-hander became the first pitcher to start a World Series game on zero days’ rest since Firpo Marberry did it for the Washington Senators in 1924.
Red Sox: Price gave up two runs and three hits over six innings in Game 2 for his second consecutive postseason win. He also pitched in relief in Game 3.
Dodgers: Kershaw makes his fourth career World Series start. He was charged with five runs and seven hits over four-plus innings in Game 1 at Boston.
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