A World Series finish worth waiting for

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 26: Max Muncy #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is congratulated by teammates after hitting a walk-off home run in the 18th inning during Game 3 of the 2018 World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Dodger Stadium on Friday, October 26, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 26: Max Muncy #13 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is congratulated by teammates after hitting a walk-off home run in the 18th inning during Game 3 of the 2018 World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Dodger Stadium on Friday, October 26, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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The Dodgers survive an 18-inning, seven-hour World Series marathon to beat the Red Sox 3-2 on Max Muncy’s post-midnight walk-off home run

The Los Angeles Dodgers awoke Saturday morning with their World Series hopes intact.

The Boston Red Sox probably laid awake all night – or what was left of it — wondering how Game 3 got away from them.

The Dodgers outlasted the Red Sox 3-2 in an epic 18-inning survival test that ended at 12:30 a.m. local time. Max Muncy, a non-roster invitee when spring training began, breathed life into the Dodgers’ hopes with an opposite field, walk-off home run to seal the victory.

And a long-awaited victory it was. The game took 7 hours and 21 minutes to play, setting post-season and World Series duration records for both innings and clock time. Both teams used 23 of their 25 eligible players.

The Dodgers still trail in the Series two games to one, but they enter the fourth game later Saturday night with momentum plus at least one other advantage. They know the identity of their starter; it will be left-hander Rich Hill, one of only two Dodgers – with Hyun-Jin Ryu – who did not see action in the third game.

Red Sox skipper Alex Cora burned through his most obvious Game 4 options – notably Nathan Eovaldi – in a futile effort to seize a 3 games to none Series advantage. Eovaldi entered in relief in the 12th inning Friday and went the rest of the way, approaching 100 pitches by the time he threw Muncy’s home run ball.

Cora also used left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, although only for one batter. That appears to limit Cora’s Game 4 options to Rodriguez or one of the two Red Sox who did not play Friday night. Drew Pomeranz finished the game warming up in the bullpen; Game 1 starter Chris Sale, would be working on short rest.

As might be expected in an 18-inning game, both clubs burned through a double-header’s worth of opportunities to put the victory away. That was particularly true of the Red Sox. In extra innings alone, they had one runner thrown out at home, a second stranded at third base, and a third erased at third on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt.   Mookie Betts, their likely league MVP, stranded five runners on base – four of them in extra innings – during an 0-for-7 night.

The heart of their attack — Betts, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez — went a combined zero-for-19.

The Dodgers, who led the majors in home runs during the regular season, survived thanks to the long ball. In the third inning, Joc Pederson caught a first-pitch Rick Porcello fastball trying to sneak across the middle of the plate and sent it into the Dodger bullpen. Aside from that blow and Muncy’s winner, Los Angeles managed to put just four runners in scoring position all night.

With rookie Walker Buehler pitching a brilliant seven innings, Pederson’s homer looked like it might stand up. But Dodger manager Dave Roberts removed Buehler before the 8th, and two out later Jackie Bradley Jr. tapped Kenley Jansen for a game-tying home run.

The game’s only two other runs both scored in the 13th, and both were weird. In the top of the inning, Brock Holt walked, stole second on a pitch in the dirt, and scored when Eduardo Nunez dribbled a roller past pitcher Scott Alexander that Muncy moved toward, then realized he couldn’t reach. Alexander did reach it, but his desperate flip eluded second baseman Kike Hernandez, trying to cover first for Muncy. Holt raced into home before the Dodgers could recover the ball.

That run would have given Boston a  3-0 Series edge and sent everybody home a lot earlier if not for an equally awkward Dodger run in the inning’s bottom half. Eovaldi walked Muncy to start the inning, and with one out Cody Bellinger lifted a foul pop toward the seats along the third base line. Nunez, who had shifted toward second against the left-handed Bellinger, raced toward the wall and managed to snag the falling pop for the inning’s second out just before tumbling over the barrier and into the laps of several surprised Dodger front-row patrons.

His foray into the seats provided all the time Muncy needed to tag up at first and get into scoring position, an effort that became vital when Puig followed with a rocket past Eovaldi that Kinsler knocked down but threw wildly past first. His error allowed Muncy to score.

Boston’s best chance to win came in the 10th, when Martinez walked, and pinch runner Ian Kinsler took third on a Holt hit and run single. But when Nunez managed only to lift an outside fastball into medium shallow center field, Bellinger threw Kinsler out at home to end the inning.

The Red Sox might have added a second or even a third run atop Holt’s in the 13th, but Bogaerts struck out with the bases full. It was the low point of his 0-for-8 night. In the 15th, the first two runners reached, but Vazquez’ sacrifice try only forced Nunez at third, Sandy Leon struck out and Betts watched helplessly as plate umpire Ted Barrett rang him up on a wide 2-2 pitch to end that threat.

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It was late into the night, it’s left us all exhausted today, but the finish of the 2018 World Series Game 3 was worth it all!