LOS ANGELES — When desperation turned to insanity and insanity turned to sheer, unadulterated madness, three bananas found their way atop the railing of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dugout. Five paper cups dangled off them, held together by two strips of athletic tape. Brian Dozier came over and sprinkled sunflower seeds on the rally-inspired concoction as Game 3 of the World Series turned into the longest contest in postseason history, a Friday night bleeding into a Saturday morning.
Moments later — after Max Muncy’s 18th-inning walk-off home run ended a bizarre seven-hour, 20-minute game, giving the Dodgers a critical 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox — the bananas made their way into the victorious clubhouse, dangling off the top of a door. Next to them was a white board, updated in blue marker to reflect what the Dodgers’ 30-year championship quest has come down to: “3 wins.”
“When in doubt, do whatever works,” Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson said. “Bananas.”
Bananas — that was Game 3.
It lasted 440 minutes, longer than the entirety of the 1939 World Series. There were 561 pitches thrown and 118 at-bats taken. It set a postseason record for players used (46) and a World Series record for strikeouts recorded (34). It was the longest game in postseason history in terms of time, and it tied for the longest game in postseason history in terms of innings.
“Goodness,” Dodgers first baseman David Freese said, his team now trailing 2-1 in the series. “I don’t even know what happened tonight.”
What happened was Red Sox ace David Price pitching the ninth inning, two days after an 88-pitch start, and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw pinch-hitting in the 17th. What happened was Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez playing first base for the first time in his major league career for the last seven innings. What happened was Nathan Eovaldi, the scheduled Game 4 starter, throwing the final 97 pitches, 36 more than what Boston’s Game 3 starter, Rick Porcello, finished with.
Nobody personified the utter lunacy better than Eduardo Nunez, who might have somehow cost his team a game with his heroism.
Nunez, mindful that the Red Sox had run out of position players, overcame what looked like a serious ankle injury to beat out the infield single that gave his team its first lead in the 13th inning.
But because his ankle hurt so bad, Nunez couldn’t score on Sandy Leon’s double down the right-field line, which meant the Dodgers entered the bottom half trailing by only a run.
And because Nunez followed by making such a courageous, miraculous catch on a foul pop-up — ranging roughly 90 feet and falling into the seats, unable to stand without assistance — Muncy tagged into scoring position, ultimately scoring the tying run on Ian Kinsler’s two-out throwing error.
And because Muncy came home with the tying run, it set the stage for his walk-off home run five innings later, the first by the Dodgers in the World Series since Kirk Gibson hobbled off a training table to end Game 1 in 1988.
Of course it was Muncy, who saw a potential walk-off homer drift 3 feet foul only three innings earlier.
Of course it was Muncy, who began the season as a 27-year-old non-roster invitee and finished it with baseball’s fifth-highest OPS.
“It’s been a dream,” Muncy said. “This whole year has been a surreal experience that is hard to put into words.”
The Dodgers began the game in desperation mode, looking to avoid a 3-0 deficit that has never been overcome on this stage. They got their chance only because Walker Buehler, their precocious rookie, was electric, becoming only the fourth pitcher in World Series history to throw seven innings and allow no more than two baserunners.
The Dodgers went 1-for-21 with men on base, but they scored on Kinsler’s error, got home runs from Pederson and Muncy, and finished it all in relatively decent shape because they didn’t burn any of their starting pitchers.
“All I know is we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves right now, to have two more games at home,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who is expected to start Rich Hill in Saturday’s Game 4. “But right now, our focus is tomorrow. Or today. Later today.”
When he sat down for his postgame media session at around 2 a.m. PT, Red Sox manager Alex Cora had no idea who he would start in 15 hours.
“How do you spell that, ‘TBA’?” he asked. “TBA.”
Cora can go with one of three left-handers. It could be Eduardo Rodriguez, who faced only one batter. It could be Drew Pomeranz, the only reliever who wasn’t used. It could be Chris Sale, who would be pitching on three days’ rest with a sore shoulder.
Regardless, this series feels different now.
“Yeah, I think so,” Freese said. “I think you can say that.”
The Red Sox were playing their first extra-innings World Series game since 1986, when Bill Buckner let the winning run trot home on a grounder that snuck under his glove.
The No. 1-4 hitters in the Red Sox lineup went 0-for-23, but Jackie Bradley Jr., the light-hitting center fielder who was expected to sit because of the National League rules, tied the game with an eighth-inning home run off Kenley Jansen, who was attempting his first six-out save since last year’s World Series.
Cody Bellinger, a first baseman by trade, was picked off in the bottom of the ninth, then threw out Kinsler when he tried to tag up on Nunez’s fly ball in the top of the 10th.
“I was glad I had a chance to redeem myself,” Bellinger said. “I wouldn’t have been able to sleep tonight.”
The Red Sox put two on with none out in the top of the 15th, but they could not score. Kenta Maeda got the lead runner out at third after fielding a sacrifice bunt, then came back to strike out Leon and Mookie Betts, the likely AL MVP. To begin the bottom half, Muncy turned on a full-count curveball from Eovaldi and began his home-run trot.
“I got it good off the bat,” Muncy said. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to be fair or foul.”
The ball hooked just to the right of the foul pole, bringing 53,114 fans to a collective hush. Muncy struck out on the next pitch. Two innings later, with one out in the top of the 17th, the Dodger Stadium clock, which read “5:10 p.m.” when the first pitch was thrown, struck midnight.
Less than 30 minutes after that, Muncy saw Eovaldi again. This time, he got ahead in the count 3-0, then fouled off back-to-back pitches, waited on a backdoor cutter — the same pitch he struck out on previously — and skied it over the fence in left-center field.
“He left this one a little over the plate, and thankfully for me he did that, because I was able to get my bat on it,” Muncy said.
“It’s difficult,” Eovaldi said. “When you go that far, you want to come out on top. He was clutch right there. It’s frustrating.”
The game lasted so long that Dodger Stadium officials closed the concession stands and later reopened them. It lasted longer than Games 1 and 2 combined, and it beat the previous high for a World Series game by four innings.
In the end, the Dodgers didn’t care for any of the histrionics.
“We want to win a championship,” Pederson said. “That would be pretty incredible.”
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