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Boston storms back, seizes control against LA

Boston Red Sox's Steve Pearce hits a three RBI-double against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the ninth inning in Game 4 of the World Series baseball game on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Los Angeles.

AP PHOTO/MARK J. TERRILL

By DAVE SHEININ | The Washington Post | Published: October 28, 2018

LOS ANGELES — If baseball had never before witnessed an 18-inning World Series game before Friday night's Game 3, it also would have had no idea what to expect in the hazy, gauzy aftermath, until the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, each looking a little green around the gills, reconvened at Dodger Stadium a few hours later for Game 4. If the former was an all-night bacchanal of baseball, it was only logical to assume the latter would be the most hellacious hangover imaginable.

But then, around midgame, something happened. Call if an offensive resurgence, call it the shaking off of cobwebs, call it hair of the dog. Whatever it was, it was thrilling. The fog lifted, the energy returned and the ball started flying to all corners of Dodger Stadium.

When it was over, the Red Sox had regained some of what they lost the night before, most notably control of this World Series. With a hard-fought, hard-earned 9-6 win in Game 4, the American League champions seized a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, and can clinch their fourth title in 15 years Sunday night, when they send ace lefty Chris Sale to the mound against Dodgers' own ace lefty, Clayton Kershaw.

A scoreless, lifeless game heading into the sixth gave way to a breathtaking barrage of bashing, with the Dodgers seizing a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth - a sequence capped by Yasiel Puig's towering homer to left - then blowing it all within two innings, the first time all year they had let a lead of four or more runs slip away.

The Red Sox used home runs by Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce to tie it - the former a three-run moonshot to right in the seventh inning off hangdog Dodgers reliever Ryan Madson, the latter a solo wall-scraper off closer Kenley Jansen in the eighth - then went ahead with a five-run burst in the top of the ninth. The go-ahead run came in on Rafael Devers' grounder up the middle off Dylan Floro, and Pearce broke it open four batters later with a bases-clearing double off Kenta Maeda.

Even trailing by five runs entering the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers managed to get the tying run to the on-deck circle with one out against Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, before the red-bearded right-hander collected the final two outs.

Boston's biggest worry, in the aftermath of Game 3 - a 3-2 loss that required 18 innings, nine of their 11 pitchers and 7 hours 20 minutes to complete - was that they hadn't just lost one game that night, but two. They limped into Game 4 unsure how they might get through nine innings with what was left of their pitching staff.

With little other choice, the Red Sox had to stick with lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, the least-bad of a handful of bad options to start Game 4, a few batters beyond his expiration date, and it cost them. The lingering image of the Dodgers' four-run inning was Puig, both arms raised, admiring his blast to left before starting his trot around the bases, while on the mound, Rodriguez first spiked his glove, then doubled over at the waist as if he were going to be sick. A crowd of 54,400 screamed and bounced and shook the old stadium under its weight.

The first order of business when waking up with a raging hangover is to check to make sure one has all four limbs still attached. Only then can one sit up, rub the eyes, survey the damage and begin piecing together the gruesome events of the night before.

So it went for the Dodgers and Red Sox on Saturday, following the 18-inning orgy of baseball the night before. The inventorying that took place in the aftermath mostly involved arms, with pitchers on both sides being divided into the available, the unavailable and the vast gray area - the fatigued, the sore and the iffy - in between.

The Red Sox had emerged from Friday night's grueling contest in worse shape than the Dodgers, owing primarily to the fact they had burned up their scheduled Game 4 starter, Nathan Eovaldi, with a herculean, 97-pitch relief effort on one day's rest - while the Dodgers had managed to leave their Game 4 starter, Rich Hill, on their bench. It was Eovaldi who, finally, surrendered the game-ending homer to Max Muncy leading off the bottom of the 18th.

As if to underscore the precious rarity of a walk-off homer in the World Series, like the one Muncy hit Friday night to end the Game 3 marathon, the Dodgers trotted out Kirk Gibson - the last player in franchise history to do so, in Game 1 in 1988 - for Saturday night's ceremonial first pitch. (In a dramatic twist, Gibson ceded the mound to Dennis Eckersley, the Oakland A's pitcher who surrendered the historic blast, and caught the pitch at the plate.)

By the middle of the game, the disappearance of the Red Sox's offense - the highest-scoring unit in the majors this season - had reached a critical point. They didn't get their first hit off Dodgers left-handed starter Rich Hill until the top of the fifth, and the top four spots in their batting order - a group that includes two likely top-five vote-getters in AL MVP balloting, in Betts and Martinez - went 0 for 28 on Friday night, and 0 for their first 11 on Saturday.

Neither team managed to advance a base runner past first base until that pivotal bottom of the sixth, when the Dodgers opened up a 4-0 lead behind Hill, their veteran left-hander, who tossed six scoreless innings. It wasn't until Hill was gone that the Red Sox got untracked - converting a pair of walks in the seventh into Moreland's massive, pinch-hit, three-run homer off Madson. In just four games, Madson, the ex-Washington National, has managed to set a World Series record by allowing seven inherited runners to score.

This series has been a second-guesser's paradise, with questions on both sides about pitcher usage and strategy. By the end of Game 4, even President Donald Trump was weighing in, ripping the Dodgers on Twitter for taking out Hill ("dominating") and bringing in "nervous reliever(s)" who "get shellacked."

But on a night such as this one, after a night such as Friday's, it was hard enough to know who had the cognition remaining to form a coherent thought, let alone pick their weary arm up and drag it back out to the mound.

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