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LOS ANGELES — Knowing their struggles on offense could not — would not — continue, the Boston Red Sox remained patient Saturday even as the walls started to close in around them.
Three innings away from watching the Los Angeles Dodgers even the 2018 World Series, the Red Sox finally found the gear they needed after nearly 25 innings of slumber.
Down four runs with nine outs remaining, the Red Sox scored nine times and fashioned a 9-6 win over the Dodgers to move one victory away from their fourth World Series title since 2004. Game 5 is Sunday night in Los Angeles.
“It’s crazy,” the Red Sox’s J.D. Martinez said. “You kind of see the offensive halt for 20-something innings or however long it was. Then you see (the Dodgers) come out and score a couple of runs and sometimes that right there can spark an offense. I think that’s kind of what did it. It kind of got everything going, and you saw everybody loosen up and just try to go out there and compete again.”
As the Red Sox’s onslaught began, some passionate words of encouragement from ace left-hander Chris Sale were caught on camera as well.
Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce hit home runs, and Rafael Devers had a go-ahead single in a five-run ninth inning. It was quick and devastating and made it appear as if Friday’s 18-inning logjam and Saturday’s six innings of futility never happened.
“I mean, yeah, we were scuffling; we were scuffling bad,” Red Sox infielder Brock Holt said. “And it kind of took a big hit from one of our guys to get it going and obviously that was Mitch Moreland. And after he did that, I think everyone kind of loosened up and we started putting together good at-bats. And thankfully we did.”
The Dodgers appeared to be on their way to getting even in the series with four runs in the sixth inning to take a 4-0 lead. The Red Sox answered quickly, though, when Moreland crushed a three-run home run in the seventh inning as a pinch hitter.
The homer came off Dodgers right-hander Ryan Madson, who has allowed all seven of his inherited runners in the series to score. The Dodgers were intent on not using right-hander Pedro Baez and left-hander Julio Urias out of the bullpen.
“In that spot right there, considering who you have left in the pen, you have to make a decision,” manager Dave Roberts said. “And I felt that Ryan still had a very good chance to get him out.”
Using the same strategy that nearly haunted them in Game 3 on Friday, the Dodgers called on closer Kenley Jansen in the eighth inning. And for the second consecutive game, the Red Sox delivered a game-tying home run, this one from Pearce to even the score 4-4.
The Red Sox went ahead for good in the ninth inning. Holt hit a one-out double off reliever Dylan Floro, and pinch hitter Devers followed with an RBI single for a 5-4 lead. The Red Sox put the game out of reach with Pearce’s three-run double off Kenta Maeda, followed by Xander Bogaerts’ RBI single.
Los Angeles scored two in the bottom of the ninth off Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel on an Enrique Hernandez home run but was unable to get any closer.
“It is a tough loss,” Roberts said. “Any loss in a World Series is difficult, obviously, but now we’re in a situation where we’re do or die. To their credit, they fought back and won a baseball game. So now it’s kind of we’ve just got to bow our necks and try to win a baseball game and it’s one day at a time.”
The Dodgers had been 54-0 this season, including playoffs, when holding a four-run lead at any point of the game. They were the only team without a loss when leading by four runs, before Saturday.
Starter Rich Hill set the tone for the Dodgers in an early pitchers’ duel with Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez. Hill did not allow a hit until a Christian Vazquez single in the fifth inning. Hill gave up one run on one hit over 6 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts.
“I think it just didn’t work out the way we wanted,” Hill said. “We’ll move forward and concentrate on (Sunday).”
Rodriguez, who was making his first career postseason start, was nearly as good, giving up just two hits through five scoreless innings. It started to unravel when Rodriguez hit David Freese with a pitch to lead off the sixth inning.
After a one-out double from Justin Turner, Manny Machado was walked intentionally to load the bases. Rodriguez appeared to get the double play he needed on Cody Bellinger, but the 3-2-3 play went awry when Vazquez’s return throw from home plate to first sailed into foul territory in right field.
Pinch runner Hernandez was forced out at home on the play, but Turner scored from second on the error for a 1-0 Dodgers lead.
Yasiel Puig followed with a home run deep into the seats in left field on a 3-1 pitch to give the Dodgers their 4-0 lead. Rodriguez gave up four runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings.
“Yeah, I mean that was the only mistake I felt I made the whole game and I paid for it,” Rodriguez said of the 92 mph fastball to Puig. “The good part is that we won the game and that’s all that matters.”
The Red Sox switched up their pitching plans for Game 5, with left-hander David Price getting the nod over Sale. Manager Alex Cora said the decision was made because the team likes Price at a National League park, not because Sale, who battled shoulder inflammation late during the season and a stomach virus during the last round of the playoffs, suffered a setback.
The Dodgers will rest their hopes on the left arm of ace Clayton Kershaw, who failed to record an out in the fifth inning of a loss in Game 1.
—Doug Padilla, Field Level Media