LOS ANGELES -- Rich Hill was cruising with a one-hit shutout as Game 4 of the World Series headed toward the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night, but in the Dodgers' dugout, he suddenly broke ominous news to his manager."Keep an eye on me," Hill told Dave Roberts.
LOS ANGELES -- Rich Hill was cruising with a one-hit shutout as Game 4 of the World Series headed toward the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on Saturday night, but in the Dodgers' dugout, he suddenly broke ominous news to his manager.
"Keep an eye on me," Hill told Dave Roberts. "I'm going to give it everything I have. Let's go hitter to hitter and just keep an eye on me."
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What followed was a Dodgers collapse of epic proportions, a 9-6 loss to the Red Sox that leaves Boston one win from another World Series championship and Los Angeles one loss from a 30th straight year without a ring.
As many Dodgers postseasons of the past decade, this one will end on Sunday unless they can garner a win in an elimination game started by Clayton Kershaw.
"It is a tough loss," said Roberts. "Any loss in a World Series is difficult, obviously, but now we're in a situation where we're do or die. To their credit, they fought back and won a baseball game. So now it's, kind of, we've just got to bow our necks and try to win a baseball game and it's one day at a time."
In the history of best-of-seven series with the 2-3-2 format, teams that won Game 4 on the road to go ahead 3-1 have gone on to take the series 38 of 45 times (84 percent). All four previous times that the Red Sox have led a World Series 3-1, they went on to win the series. All four times the Dodgers have trailed 3-1 in the World Series, they have lost in five games.
With both bullpens on fumes after the Dodgers' thrilling but exhausting 18-inning win in Game 3 on Friday night, Roberts removed Hill with a 4-0 lead with one out and one on in the seventh inning. In the next 2 2/3 innings, Boston scored nine runs with L.A. relievers on the mound. Roberts said Pedro Baez and Julio Urias were unavailable because of recent usage. Presumably, they will be available in Game 5.
After the game, Roberts revealed Hill's warning, which set in motion the manager's bullpen moves.
"I know Rich did everything he could, competed, left everything out there," said Roberts, who said Hill had never before said anything like that to him during a start. Hill had pitched only 10 2/3 innings over the previous four weeks.
"You're talking about a World Series game where there's no margin up to that point, and there's a lot of emotion, intensity, effort, focus, and he did everything," said Roberts. "He did everything to put us in a position to win a baseball game. And, again, we've got to do a better job of picking him up."
Hill didn't join the second-guessers about his removal.
"Everybody wants the chance [to stay in the game], but the moves we've made all year have worked out, and we would not be in this position if we weren't doing that," Hill said.
Hill opened the seventh inning by walking Xander Bogaerts on a 3-2 pitch after starting the at-bat with three consecutive balls. The lefty then struck out Eduardo Nunez for the third time. With Hill at 91 pitches, Roberts brought in lefty Scott Alexander, added to the roster for the World Series to match up against left-handed hitters like Brock Holt. But Alexander walked Holt on four pitches.
"Right there at that point," Roberts said, "you get an out and we're talking about hitter to hitter. Guy's on first base and you've got a lefty on the bench or in the 'pen that has done it all year long, getting lefties out, and [we're] trying to keep those lefties on the bench -- [Mitch] Moreland, [Rafael] Devers. So you figure you have a chance to get a guy who matches up really well against Holt, and then to potentially go to [Christian] Vazquez and keep the other guys off the bench."
After Alexander's walk to Holt, Roberts replaced him with righty Ryan Madson, who got Jackie Bradley Jr. to pop out before the Red Sox called on Moreland to pinch-hit. The lefty slugger crushed a hanging changeup to cut the Dodgers' lead to 4-3.
"In that spot right there, considering who you have left in the 'pen, you have to make a decision," said Roberts. "And I felt that Ryan still had a very good chance to get him out."
Madson didn't deny fatigue played a role, especially after an 18-inning game.
"That just goes without saying. It's on both sides," he said. "It's in their bullpen, in our bullpen. It's just whoever can make the best pitches at that time wins. I think they did that today. We did it yesterday, they did it today."
Roberts gave the eighth inning to Kenley Jansen, who had pitched two innings in Game 3, but two batters into the closer's Game 4 appearance, Steve Pearce hit a game-tying home run.
"I'm just thinking about one hitter at a time when he called my name in the eighth," Jansen said about his usage. "In the situation like that, you can't focus on two innings or anything like that, you have to focus on one hitter at a time. Those guys did a great job by hitting mistakes."
Before the game, Roberts was confident his bullpen was in better shape than Boston's, but the meltdown accelerated in the ninth inning, with three runs charged to Dylan Floro (who pitched 1 2/3 innings on Friday), one to Alex Wood (who pitched one inning on Friday) and one to Kenta Maeda (who pitched two innings on Friday).
The Red Sox had no at-bats with runners in scoring position against Hill, then they went 5-for-7 in those situations against Dodgers relievers. Los Angeles hadn't blown a four-run lead all season, but it did blow a four-run lead against Houston in last year's World Series.
"But, you know, we've still got to play. And we're not out yet," Roberts said. "We've got to go out there and still, yeah, respect what they've done, but our guys aren't done. We've got our best [Kershaw] going tomorrow, and we're expecting to win a baseball game."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.