Boston Red Sox celebrate after their win in Game 4 of the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Los Angeles. The Red Sox won 9-6. They lead the series 3 games to 1 (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

After being held to two runs in their first 24 innings in Southern California, one of them unearned, the redoubtable Boston offense erupted. The crushing blow was a five-run ninth that broke a 4-4 tie as 10 Red Sox came to the plate against three futile Dodgers relievers.

Rafael Devers’ RBI single broke the tie. A bases-loaded, three-run double off Kenta Maeda by Steve Pearce, who also hit a solo homer, broke the game wide open, and a Xander Bogaerts RBI single adding insurance.

Boston’s shaky closer, Craig Kimbrel, tried to cause heart palpitations all over New England by giving up a two-run homer to Kike Hernandez in the bottom of the ninth, but he eventually escaped with the sanity of Red Sox Nation still intact.

The turnaround in this game was pure melodrama — from 4-0 Dodgers after six innings to 9-4 Boston after that bat-around in the ninth. All those stunning Boston blows, including a three-run homer by Mitch Moreland off living-a-nightmare reliever Ryan Madson and a solo blast to tie the game by Pearce off Kenley Jansen, only cemented the notion that the real Red Sox offense had returned to the scene. That attack swung the momentum of this series entirely back to the Red Sox. All the good work by the Dodgers in their epic 18-inning Game 3 win, that 3-2 decision that came after seven-plus hours Friday night into Saturday, was reversed.

Instead of sending Clayton Kershaw to the mound against Boston’s David Price in Game 5 on Sunday with a chance to take the lead in the series, the Dodgers instead will be fighting for their lives. The Dodgers distinguished themselves here, but the relentless Red Sox at-bats ground them down.

When Hannibal and his elephants shocked his Roman enemies by crossing the Alps in 218 B.C., I figure they were tired by the end of the job — elephants, Alps, snow. Hannibal, babe, you’re all going to die.

They may have resembled the Red Sox and Dodgers dragging themselves into Game 4 of the World Series after playing 18 innings the previous night. If you got 18 survivors of that famous Alp trek and put them into two lineups, they’d have more zip than the exhausted, somnolent survivors of Game 4.

For inning after inning, almost nothing happened as a pair of good left-handers — Rich Hill for the Dodgers and Eduardo Rodriguez for Boston — suddenly seemed as overpowering as a young Sandy Koufax to their rest-deprived and stress-frazzled foes.

Hill had a no-hitter for 4 1/3 innings, fanning five with his big roundhouse curveballs. Only Boston catcher Christian Vazquez solved him, a bit, for a warning-track out, a barely foul blast that narrowly missed being a homer to left and, finally, Boston’s first hit on a single to left in the fifth.

Rodriguez was the forgotten man in this series. He hadn’t pitched for almost two weeks before being used briefly in relief in Game 3. Most assumed that no pitcher would try to start a World Series game on zero days of rest. Only six men have ever tried it, none since 1924. Last time a team won such a game: 1908.

So, surely, when Rodriguez finished five scoreless innings on 80 pitches, Cora would have him on the shortest of leashes. After all, Rodriguez had only thrown more than 90 pitches once since July 14. And he had not thrown more than 44 pitches since Sept. 20. Combine that with no days of rest, and the fact that his fastball had lost a bit since his clockings of 94-95 in the early innings and . . .

That’s not how Cora was thinking. After Rodriguez hit the first Dodgers batter of the sixth with his first pitch, then won a left-on-left matchup with Game 3 hero Max Muncy, fanning him, the normal book — old school, new school or any damn school at all — was to call for a right-hander to face the most dangerous Dodgers, Justin Turner and Manny Machado.

Turner doubled over the third base bag (hmmm), and Machado was intentionally walked to load the bases. With lefty Cody Bellinger up, Cora stuck with Rodriguez — not illogical in that matchup. The Red Sox nearly escaped — a hard grounder to first almost produced a first-to-home-to-first double play to end the inning, except that Vazquez’s throw to first deflected off Bellinger’s back and rolled down the right field line as Turner scored.

At this point, Rodriguez absolutely, positively had to be lifted. Not because of the lefty-rigthy matchup, because Yasiel Puig has reverse splits and sometimes doesn’t even start against lefties. The reason: Everything else. Rodriguez had been punctured. Errors rattle pitchers, especially in the World Series, and he had already performed far beyond his pay grade.

But Cora left him in.

Every baseball fan, and ball writer for that matter, has a pet peeve that drives them crazy. For me, it is “sentimental managing.” The classic example is leaving in a starting pitcher longer than is logical, longer than is his norm or consistent with his established ability, and longer than is in the best interests of all 25 players.

Rodriguez fell behind 3-1, his fastballs now 92, not 94. Puig drove the fifth fastball halfway up the left field bleachers for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead.

At that point, this game should probably have been over. Pennant winners, like the Dodgers, should be able to hold four-run leads for nine outs. But the Red Sox are one of the deepest, most resilient and closely knit teams in years. And they were determined to get themselves — and their manager — off the hook.

They set about doing so immediately as the Dodger crowd of 54,400 gasped and moaned as their bullpen failed repeatedly. With one mandate — don’t walk anybody — both Hill and reliever Scott Alexander walked Bogaerts, who was 0-for-10 in the two games here, and Holt.

Manager Dave Roberts summoned Madson, the distinguished 38-year-old veteran of many postseason relief successes, but the very symbol of defeat for the Dodgers in this series. In Games 1 and 2 he inherited five runners — and all scored, making losers of Kershaw and Hjun-jin Ryu. This time, he not only allowed both inherited runners to score, he added one of his own as Mitch Moreland demolished a three-run homer to the top of the right-center field bleachers, cutting the lead to 4-3.

The Red Sox were totally awake and engaged. An inning later, Pearce tied it with a solo homer to left off Jansen, the 15th homer that Jansen has allowed this year, an astronomical total for a closer.

But Jansen would not close this show. With the lead blown, Roberts turned to a bullpen that he said was sufficiently rested. But not rested enough to contain the Red Sox. The best offense in baseball would not be denied.

Before the Bostonians relented in the ninth, they had sent 10 men to the plate, scored five runs, built a 9-4 lead. By Sunday, when Game 5 rolls around, the Red Sox, instead of being wrapped in worries, will try to show that one win — one measly win — is all that they intend to allow any foe to grab. Including the suddenly down-and-almost-out Dodgers.

Tom Boswell is a sports columnist for The Washington Post.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.