The Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox played two games on Friday night. The first nine innings, a pitching duel highlighted by a brilliant performance by the Dodgers’ rookie starter Walker Buehler, ended at a reasonable hour—the only problem was that it was tied, 1–1. Post-season baseball, of course, can’t end in a tie, so the two teams played on, and when it was over, with the Dodgers winning, 3–2, on a walkoff home run by Max Muncy, they’d managed a second game: eighteen innings, the longest game by innings or time (seven hours and twenty minutes) in World Series history, a once-in-several-lifetimes playoff doubleheader.
By the end, weird things had happened. Both teams used all their position players and eighteen total pitchers. Alex Cora, the Red Sox manager, switched Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, Jr., between center field and right field so often that Betts’s box-score entry ended up like this: “RF-CF-RF-CF-RF-CF-RF.” The Red Sox’s planned Game Four starter, Nathan Eovaldi, came in and threw six innings of this one instead. (They’ll need someone else on Saturday night.) The Dodgers’ ace starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw pinch-hit in the seventeenth inning, flying out. The Sox put the catcher Christian Vazquez at first base, where he’d never played in the majors.
For the Dodgers, things looked bleak at several moments. The team’s steady closer Kenley Jansen had lost the lead in the eighth, giving up a two-out homer. In the tenth, it took a masterly throw to home plate from the center fielder Cody Bellinger to keep the game tied. By the bottom of the thirteenth, as the Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler fielded a grounder from Yasiel Puig that would have been the final out, giving the Sox a likely insurmountable three-games-to-none lead, the series looked like it would be a forgettable one. But then, in a moment that would haunt Sox fans if their recent good fortune had not left them immune to ghost stories, Kinsler tripped over himself and threw the ball wildly away, allowing the Dodgers’ Max Muncy to score from second and tie the game at two runs apiece. Jubilation, and then five more innings.
It ended, finally, as any game that long should end, on a home run—by Max Muncy, whose name sounds as if it were borrowed from some dusty book in the giant library of baseball. He’s listed at six feet but looks shorter, a fireplug Texan with a beard and a friendly grin. Muncy, who is twenty-eight, didn’t play more than fifty or so games in either of his first two seasons in the majors, in 2015 and 2016, for the Oakland Athletics, and hit a total of just five home runs. He spent all of last season far from Los Angeles, playing for the Dodgers’ minor-league affiliate in Oklahoma City, with whom he showed a bit more power, hitting twelve home runs. Then, called up to the majors this April, Muncy played as if remade, hitting thirty-five home runs in fewer than four hundred at-bats, and becoming, in his longshot reinvention, a fan favorite. Muncy was already a folk hero in L.A., before becoming, let’s say, a folk superhero.
He hadn’t even been in the starting lineup for the previous two games in Boston. Muncy bats lefty and hits left-handed starters poorly, and so his manager, Dave Roberts, playing the numbers, left him on the bench against the Sox’s two lefty starters. With Rick Porcello, a righty, starting Game Three, Muncy finally got his shot, and was in the game until the end. He nearly won it in the fifteenth inning, with a towering shot to right field that went just foul—a Kirk Gibson moment teased and then denied—before he hit one to left-center that just eased over the fence. At the press conference after the game, Muncy said that only in a dream, “this exact one,” were such things possible. And then, one hopes, he went home to get some sleep.