LOS ANGELES — The baseball postseason had never seen anything like it.
For seven hours and 20 minutes, the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers tried to settle Game 3 of the World Series. No postseason game had ever lasted so long. Few have ever been so tense.
At last, in the 18th inning, on the 561st pitch Friday night into the predawn hours of Saturday, Max Muncy drove a backdoor cutter from Nathan Eovaldi over the left field fence at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers had a victory, 3-2, and life in this World Series.
“As the game kept going, you look up and you saw it’s the 18th inning and you’re like, ‘Holy cow, where did this game go?’ ” said Muncy, whose homer gave the Dodgers their first win, after two losses at Fenway Park. “The last nine innings or so really just blur together. But as far as our dugout, there was no deflation, no give-up.”
Two division series games have lasted 18 innings, but no World Series game had ever gone beyond the 14th. This game stretched nearly an hour longer than any other in postseason history and — incredibly — consumed 15 more minutes than the entire 1939 World Series, a tidy Yankees sweep over Cincinnati that lasted just seven hours five minutes.
“If we didn’t pull this out, we’d kind of just be playing for fun,” said the Dodgers’ David Freese, who hit the last game-ending World Series homer before Muncy, for St. Louis in 2011. “Down 3-0, that’s pretty tough. I’m happy for these guys. We just fought and fought and fought.”
So did the Red Sox, especially Eovaldi, whose 97 pitches were the most on record by a reliever in World Series history. Eovaldi won two starts in the American League playoffs and had been scheduled to start Game 4. Now he has worked three World Series games in relief, and the Red Sox have not named a starter for Saturday.
“I told him how proud I was of him,” Manager Alex Cora said of Eovaldi. “The effort was amazing. It was a great baseball game. People back home are probably waking up to the end. But it’s probably one of the best, if not the best, game I’ve ever been a part of.”
The game ended at 3:30 a.m. Saturday in Boston, and the fans here had stood and roared when the stadium scoreboard showed midnight. The announced crowd of 53,114 fans had hardly seemed to dwindle by the time Muncy connected, and now they know the World Series will extend at least through Sunday.
By then, there is no telling how exhausted the pitchers will be. The teams set a record for combined pitchers used in a World Series game: 18, not counting the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, who lined out as a pinch-hitter in the 17th inning, just to add to the zaniness of the night.
“Regular season, you probably expect a few of those,” said Kershaw, adding that the clubhouse chef had prepared peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches for the players as the hours dragged on. “You don’t expect a game like that to happen in the World Series. An incredible game, it really was.”
There were pratfalls from Boston’s Eduardo Nunez, who did not even play until the 10th inning but managed to fall over in four different places: the batter’s box, after colliding with catcher Austin Barnes in the 13th; the dirt around first base, after sliding in safely moments later; the third-base stands, after catching a foul pop and tumbling there in the bottom of the inning; and the pitcher’s mound, after making an awkward catch in the 16th.
There was a spectacular double play by center fielder Cody Bellinger, who caught Nunez’s fly ball in the 10th and uncorked a laser to the plate to cut down Ian Kinsler, who was tagging up from third. Bellinger had been picked off in the ninth by David Price, Boston’s Game 2 starter, who was working in relief.
“I was glad I had a chance to redeem myself,” Bellinger said. “I wouldn’t have been able to sleep.”
There were home runs before Muncy’s — a solo shot by the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson off Rick Porcello in the third inning, and another by the Red Sox’ Jackie Bradley Jr. that tied the game off Kenley Jansen in the eighth. Jansen relieved the rookie starter Walker Buehler, who dazzled for seven shutout innings.
“He’s got tremendous stuff,” Manager Dave Roberts said, “and he lives for moments like this.”
Only twice before had a pitcher worked seven scoreless innings in the World Series while striking out seven and allowing two hits or fewer: Don Larsen in his 1956 perfect game and Roger Clemens in 2000. Buehler joined those Yankees on Friday, stifling a strong lineup whose first two hitters, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, combined to go 0 for 15.
Betts was busy in the outfield, at least, shifting his position six times, the same as Bradley, as the Red Sox tried to play keep-away from the other outfielder — first J.D. Martinez, who is normally a designated hitter, and then Brock Holt, who is normally an infielder.
Boston’s regular left fielder, Andrew Benintendi, did not start on Friday, so Martinez could stay in the lineup. Benintendi batted once and struck out as a pinch-hitter.
The game was so stuffed with absurdly improbable moments that both teams scored a run in the 13th inning on an infield single and a throwing error. The Red Sox got theirs after Holt walked, stole second and scored when pitcher Scott Alexander tossed wildly to first after fielding a dribbler by Nunez, who stayed on the ground for a while.
“He’s like, ‘I’m not coming out,’ ” said Cora, who by then had used everyone but pitchers Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz. “I said: ‘Well, you can’t come out. We have no more players.’ ”
Nunez moved gingerly, though, and he could not score from first on Sandy Leon’s two-out double. The Red Sox could have used the extra run, because the Dodgers tied it in the bottom of the inning, when Kinsler threw away an infield hit by Yasiel Puig, allowing Muncy — who had walked — to come home.
Muncy nearly won the game in the 15th, but his deep drive hooked just foul down the right field line. He was the Dodgers’ home run leader this season, with 35, after spending all of last year in the minors and two uneventful seasons before that with the Oakland Athletics, who released him at the end of spring training in 2017.
Muncy changed his stance, developing a pronounced crouch, and despite never getting a promotion last year, he trusted that he could impress the Dodgers’ major league staff in his first spring training with them. He did, and when he got the call to the majors in mid-April, Muncy was ready.
“There was a lot of mechanical changes, and most importantly a lot of mental changes,” Muncy said. “And all that put together has led to this point right now.”
That point was home plate, after midnight, enveloped by teammates with renewed hope of winning the Dodgers’ first championship in 30 years.