LOS ANGELES — After the Red Sox lost to the Dodgers, 3-2, in an 18-inning Game 3 of the World Series that lasted 7 hours and 20 minutes — the longest game by time and innings in MLB postseason history — torching their pitching plans for Saturday and probably beyond, manager Alex Cora suggested everything was fine.
“It’s not crushing at all,” Cora said. “I just talked to them. I told them how proud I am. The effort was amazing. That was a great baseball game. It’s probably one of the best, if not the best, game I’ve ever been a part of. The effort from both sides.”
Despite the genuine sentiment, Cora and his staff — coaching and pitching — now are tasked with figuring it out for Saturday and Sunday.
Nathan Eovaldi, previously scheduled to start Game 4, threw 97 pitches across six innings-plus of relief until Max Muncy’s walk-off home run leading off the bottom of the 18th. The only Boston players who didn’t get into the game were Drew Pomeranz (warming up for the next inning) and Chris Sale (Game 1 starter).
So what does that mean for the Red Sox’s pitching plans for Game 4 on Saturday?
“There are a few guys that are lining up in my office to start the game tomorrow,” Cora said. “We'll decide what we'll do and we'll be fine.”
Cora added that the Red Sox probably will start a lefthander, and he said that on Friday afternoon, Sale had mentioned a willingness to take the ball Saturday. Among their choices from the southpaw category, in approximate order of likelihood: Sale, who has faced decreased velocity in recent outings and would be going on short rest; Eduardo Rodriguez, who faced one batter Friday; Pomeranz, who hasn’t pitched since last month and hasn’t started since early August; and Game 2 starter David Price, who pitched two-thirds of an inning Friday.
As for Eovaldi, who also pitched in relief in the series’ first two games, his dramatic relief effort received plaudits from all parties involved.
“What Nate did tonight, that was amazing. That was amazing. We kept talking to him, ‘I'm good. I'm good. I'm good,’ ” Cora said. “The pitch mix, good breaking balls, good cutters, good fastballs, you almost have to be perfect in that situation. And actually he was perfect. We just didn't make one play and they put a good swing on it. But effort-wise, I don't know, World Series, that was one of the best performances probably in the history of the World Series.”
Said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: “That's what the World Series is all about. What he did for that club, for me on the other side, we were kind of victim of it. But it was fun to watch.”
Rick Porcello, who tossed 4 2/3 innings to open the game, said it brought him to tears afterward. “He literally gave everything he had on every single pitch,” Porcello said.
Said Eduardo Nunez: “He’s our horse. He was unbelievable.”
Eovaldi entered in the top of the 12th and refused to give the ball up. He had trouble with one batter: Muncy.
The first time they faced off, in the 13th, Muncy drew a leadoff walk. He scored when Ian Kinsler threw away a grounder by Yasiel Puig, turning the potential game-ending out -- and an out that would have given the Red Sox a three-games-to-none lead in the World Series -- into the tying run.
“[Kinsler] apologized to me and I told him he had nothing to apologize for,” Eovaldi said. “ 'We're a team, I know you got my back.' And I've got his."
Muncy struck out in the 15th after narrowly missing a walk-off home run, but three innings later, he hammered a full-count cutter over the wall in left-center to end it.
“They were checking with me, asking how I’m feeling and everything, and I kept telling them, ‘I’m good. I want this win. I want to come out here and finish it,' ” Eovaldi said. “Under the circumstances of the game, the emotions, the adrenaline, everything was kicking in there toward the end. I fell behind 3-and-0, and I just wasn’t able to execute that last pitch.”