Entering Saturday night, the Dodgers hadn’t lost in 54 previous opportunities this season when they led by four runs or more. When they went up 4-0 in the sixth inning on the strength of three-run homer for Yasiel Puig, they were headed for a series-tying win.
But then the bullpen got involved.
Dodger relievers ignited the Red Sox offense, giving up nine runs over the final three innings to put Los Angeles on the verge of elimination. Boston won going away to the tune of 9-4.
The game started off the rails for the Dodgers in the top of the seventh when Rich Hill walked Xander Bogaerts to start the inning. Hill would pitch to only one more batter, striking out Eduardo Nunez before manager Dave Roberts came with the hook.
Boston managed just one hit in 6 1⁄3 innings against Hill, but wasted no time taking advantage of his absence.
Scott Alexander was called upon to get the left-handed hitting Brock Holt. Four pitches later, Holt had walked to bring Ryan Madson on to try and stomp out the rally.
It didn’t go well.
After getting Jackie Bradley Jr to pop out, Madson hung an 85-mph changeup that pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland hit a country mile to bring the Sox within a run.
“Prior to that, before the top of the 7th was going on, it was a long sixth for us. And I had a conversation with Rich, and we talked about it,” Roberts explained about the way he handled Hill in the seventh. “He said, “Keep an eye on me. I’m going to give it everything I have. Let’s go hitter to hitter and just keep an eye on me.”
“So right there, I know Rich did everything he could, competed, left everything out there.”
It got worse when Roberts went to his closer Kenley Jansen in the eighth for the second consecutive night. Jansen couldn’t protect the lead again, allowing a solo homer to Steve Pearce to tie the game.
With five days off in between games pitched, Jansen blew leads in consecutive games to become just the second pitcher to allow a game-tying home run in back-to-back games of a World Series. The other was Arizona’s Byung-hyun Kim in 2001 Games 4 and 5, which was also the last time there were back-to-back extra-inning World Series games.
“I definitely don’t think it’s physical,” said Roberts. “He was as fresh as any of our relievers. Mental, there aren’t too many more mentally tough than Kenley. I think it’s just one of those things where you look at the three innings he’s thrown, he made a lot of quality pitches, and the two mistakes he made, the cutters didn’t cut and he gave up two homers. I don’t think it’s a mental or physical thing.”
The Dodgers wouldn’t score in the bottom of the eight, forcing Roberts to go to Dylan Floro for the ninth. A one-out double sent Alex Wood running to the bullpen mound to get ready quick when Boston sent Rafael Devers to pinch-hit. Unprepared for the possibility, the Dodgers stuck with Floro.
Devers singled up the middle to bring the go-ahead run home. By the time the inning came to a close, Boston struck five times to take a commanding 9-4 lead.
The Dodgers rallied for a pair in the bottom half but it was too little, too late.
“It is a tough loss,” said Roberts. “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.”
Roberts revealed postgame that both Julio Urias and Pedro Baez were unavailable.
Both teams lacked energy early on Saturday night. It was understandable after all, having played the longest game in postseason just hours it seemed before Game 4 started.
The Dodgers got a big boost in the arm from Hill’s outstanding start. They were headed for a tied series when they got to Eduardo Rodriguez for four runs in the sixth inning, with Yasiel Puig delivering a big three-run homer more than halfway up the pavilion in left.
Rodriguez had effectively gone five scoreless innings for Boston, but Cora asked for more with a depleted bullpen behind him. The lefty would hit David Freese on the first pitch to put a runner on ahead of the big hitters for the Dodgers.
After Max Muncy struck out, Justin Turner doubled down the left field line to put runners at second and third for Manny Machado. With Cody bellinger on deck, Machado would be intentionally walked to load the bases.
Bellinger hit the first pitch down to Pearce at first, setting up a double play opportunity for Boston. But catcher Christian Vazquez threw it down the first base line to allow Turner to score the first run of the game.
Working a 3-1 count, Puig got a 92-mph fastball down the heart of the plate that he didn’t miss. When the ball landed several rows into the upper half of the left field seats, the Dodgers commanded a four-run lead.
The Dodgers have no choice but to win Sunday with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.
Home Runs: Puig (1), Hernandez (1), Moreland (1), Pearce (1)
WP: Joe Kelly (1-0): 2 IP, 3 hits, 3 strikeouts
LP: Dylan Floro (0-1): 2⁄3 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 walk