LOS ANGELES -- The dugout was dead, the bats silent, and the concern was growing that, perhaps, a Game 3 that had featured double the innings might have, in a sense, featured double the losses for the Red Sox. With their pitching plan ripped up, Rich Hill locking down their lineup and Yasiel Puig doing his bat-dropping, arm-raising, bicep-kissing dance around the basepaths, a Boston ballclub that had dominated the first two games of this World Series was in serious danger of seeing its edge eliminated.
But the relentlessness that colored 108 regular-season wins and a steady run through a daunting American League playoff picture remains with the Red Sox, and it carried them in a Game 4 on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium. Scoring all nine of their runs from the seventh inning on, with four RBIs from Steve Pearce, the short-on-sleep-but-long-on-life Sox deflated and defeated the Dodgers, 9-6, and are back in a commanding and mathematically momentous position in this best-of-seven set.
• Sox band together to put Dodgers on brink
"With our mindest," said Mitch Moreland, whose three-run homer in the seventh sparked the surge, "we can change a game quick."
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The Dodgers, who will throw staff ace Clayton Kershaw up against short-rested, surprise Boston option David Price, had better change this Series quick. The Red Sox are one win away from their ninth World Series title, playing with an air of invincibility and inevitability. It took a game of historic length to beat Boston on Friday, and it's going to take a comeback of seismic proportions to catch the Sox now.
• Dodgers put title hopes on Kershaw's shoulders
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.
• These teams came back from 3-1 deficits
"Now we're in a situation where we're do or die," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. "To their credit, they fought back and won a baseball game."
Down, 4-0, going into the seventh, after Puig's big blow prompted a violent spike of the glove from Boston starter Eduardo Rodriguez, the Red Sox broke out of their offensive trance and then broke the Dodgers' hearts.
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For perspective, the Dodgers were 54-0 when leading by four runs at any point this season, including the postseason. They were the only team not to lose such a game. Furthermore, only once in the past 10 World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, had a team lost a game in which it led by four runs or more at any point (though, because baseball can be cruel, that infamy also belonged to L.A., in Game 5 of last year's Classic match with Houston).
So up to that moment when Rodriguez's glove hit the ground, it appeared the postgame criticism would be reserved for Red Sox skipper Alex Cora. He had opted to ride Rodriguez, who had pitched in Game 3 but whose starting assignment was necessitated by Nathan Eovaldi's losing-but-leviathan relief effort, a little too long, and Puig made him pay the price.
"I pushed him too hard," Cora said.
• E-Rod provides necessary length in Game 4 win
The more pressing questions, however, would be reserved for Roberts. He sent veteran starter Hill, who ordinarily operates with an inordinately short leash, out for the seventh inning of what was a rousing start. But he yanked Hill, who had hinted to Roberts that he was nearing the end of his rope, two batters into the inning, with Xander Bogaerts aboard via a walk.
"He said, 'Keep an eye on me, I'm going to give it everything I have, [but] let's go hitter to hitter and just keep an eye on me,'" Roberts said. "So right there, I know Rich did everything he could, competed, left everything out there."
• Rodriguez had no chance bunting against Hill's ridiculous curveball
Brock Holt drew another walk off reliever Scott Alexander, and Roberts, who had been burned by Ryan Madson twice in Boston, went back to Madson and got burned again. Madson elevated a first-pitch changeup to Moreland, who socked it into the right-field seats to make it 4-3.
Another pattern repeated itself in the eighth. For the second time in as many nights, Roberts went to Kenley Jansen for the six-out save. And for the second time in as many nights, Jansen, who has been homer-prone all year, gave up the game-tying solo shot -- this time to Pearce, who took him deep to left. Jansen became just the second pitcher to give up game-tying homers in back-to-back games of a World Series, joining the D-backs' Byung-hyun Kim (Games 4 and 5, 2001).
"They're a good team," said Jansen, "and it was just one bad pitch."
And then, in the ninth, the Red Sox brought the dagger. With Dylan Floro on the hill, Holt bounced a double down the third-base line with one out and roared back at Boston's bench. That set up a dazzling display of depth. Rafael Devers came in cold to swat a run-scoring single. The midseason pickup Pearce, who faced Kenta Maeda with the bases loaded, doubled everybody home. And Bogaerts tacked on an insurance RBI single to make it 9-4.
• LA 'pen relents after Hill 'left everything out there'
The Dodgers offered some measure of response with Enrique Hernandez's two-run shot off closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth, and perhaps Kimbrel's 28-pitch outing will have Game 5 repercussions. But this was a night when Los Angeles' hopes were crushed and the Red Sox reached the cusp of a crown.
• Dodgers squander Puig's HR, Hill's strong start
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Joltin' Joe: Boston's late-inning offensive surge is rendered meaningless if somebody doesn't put a roadblock in front of the Dodgers' bats. In Game 4, that someone was Joe Kelly, who delivered two scoreless innings of relief in which he gave up three hits with three strikeouts. His biggest moment came when he K'd pinch-hitter Yasmani Grandal with runners on the corners and two outs in the eighth to preserve a 4-4 tie.
"The only pressure I felt was to not let my teammates down," Kelly said.
Squandered inheritance: Madson had inherited five baserunners in Boston. All five scored. So why did Roberts trust Madson with two on and one out in the seventh, when the left-handed-hitting Moreland's pinch-hit homer made it a perfectly imperfect 7-for-7? Roberts said he was trying to stay away from Pedro Baez, who threw two innings in Game 3, and Julio Urias, who threw one inning in Game 3.
"Ryan has a very good track record of getting righties and lefties out, and actually left-handers considerably more, and we just didn't execute," Roberts said. "Moreland hit a changeup, first pitch, that was up -- and [Madson] got the prior hitter to pop up to the [second baseman] -- and he made a bad pitch, and unfortunately Mitch took a really good swing on it. So in that spot right there, considering who you have left in the 'pen, you have to make a decision. And I felt that Ryan still had a very good chance to get him out."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Devers came through with his bat off the bench in the top of the ninth, and he came through with his glove and arm in the bottom of the inning. With a runner aboard, one out and Kimbrel trying to preserve the 9-6 lead, Manny Machado hit a bullet to Devers' right. The young third baseman slid to make the stop, gathered himself and fired to first for the inning's second out.
"I think the last time was in Little League, probably, making a play like that," Devers said through an interpreter. "I just came in with the mentality of trying to help the team in any way that I can. And I was given that opportunity tonight to do that."
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• The last team to score nine-plus runs in a World Series game in the seventh inning or later, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was the 1997 Marlins, in Game 3.
• Four clubs have come back from a 3-1 hole in the World Series by winning Game 5 at home and Games 6 and 7 on the road -- the 1958 Yankees, '68 Tigers, '79 Pirates and 2016 Cubs. The Dodgers will try to join that exclusive list.
• When Kershaw and Price square off Sunday, it will mark the fourth lefty-lefty matchup of this Series. That has only happened one other time in World Series history. The 1973 Fall Classic between the Mets and A's had five lefty-lefty games to set a record.
• Red Sox tab Price for Game 5 potential clincher
HE SAID IT
"Sometimes in October, we talk about mechanics and how you feel at the plate and all that, [but] sometimes it's will. 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." -- Cora