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If Sox don’t win World Series, Game 3 will go down as their 21st century’s Bill Buckner game

Ian Kinsler’s error in the 13th inning allowed the Dodgers to tie Game 3.jim davis/Globe staff

LOS ANGELES — It’s hard to know where to place Friday/Saturday’s epic World Series Game 3 in the pantheon of memorable New England sports moments. We simply won’t know where this one goes until the rest of the Series unfolds.

I was at the Tuck Rule Game in Foxborough in 2002. It was one of the great reversals in the history of the NFL. The Patriots were going to be losers because Tom Brady fumbled and the Oakland Raiders recovered. But wait . . . not so fast. Walt Coleman said Brady had been in the act of throwing the pass. The previously unknown Tuck Rule was introduced and it triggered the greatest dynasty in the history of professional football.


In that moment, we did not know that the 2001-02 Patriots were going to pull off a Super Bowl stunner in New Orleans. We did not know that the young Brady would prove to be the greatest quarterback of all time.

Similarly, no one in Los Angeles or New England knows what to make of the Game 3 marathon that ended at 3:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time Saturday, when Max Muncy led off with a homer on a 3-and-2 pitch from heroic Nathan Eovaldi in the bottom of the 18th. While New England slept, the LA crowd shook the foundation of Dodger Stadium and prepared to party long into the morning.

It was a game that lasted 7 hours and 20 minutes and featured 46 players and 561 pitches. Red Sox starter Rick Porcello acknowledged he cried at the sight of Eovaldi surrendering the walkoff after Eovaldi’s superb six-plus innings of relief.

Meanwhile, Ian Kinsler, a Gold Glover and respected veteran of 13 seasons wore the goat horns and made no excuses.

“It’s tough to swallow,’’ Kinsler acknowledged.

How will all of this be remembered?


That depends on what happens in Games 4, 5, and (possibly) beyond.

Go back 30 years to the Kirk Gibson homer off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Had the Oakland A’s recovered and won that Series, Gibson’s shot would be memorable, but it would not be folklore. It was enlarged when the Dodgers went on to beat the A’s in a five-game upset that ranks with the biggest surprises in World Series history.

Now . . . if you can take it, hop in the Way Back Machine and revisit the Red Sox apocalyptic, cataclysmic implosion in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. The Buckner Game. Every Boston sports fan over the age of 40 can tell you where he or she was and what they were doing on that fateful Saturday night. That’s largely because the Sox went out and lost Game 7 two nights later. Had John McNamara’s club won Game 7, the hideous Game 6 loss would have been a mere footnote — instead of an international metaphor for choke jobs.

This is the weight the 2018 Red Sox carried into Game 4 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium Saturday night. The Sox had a chance to erase the memory and get on with their business of being the Greatest Team Ever . . . But they also faced the possibility of losing a Series they thought they had already won.

Let’s be clear on this one little thing: nobody said the Sox were a lock to win this event after winning the first two games at Fenway. But anyone would acknowledge that a win in Game 3 would have effectively ended the 2018 World Series and that win looked like a lock when Eovaldi got the first two outs with a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 13th. Things got away from the Sox when flop-master Eduardo Nunez — looking like LeBron James trying to sell a foul by diving into the photo pit — plopped into the stands after catching a pop, allowing Max Muncy to tag and go to second. Then came Kinsler’s awful throw when perhaps he could have pocketed the baseball as his feet gave out.


Suddenly, Midas manager Alex Cora looked like a guy who’d panicked. “All in” is great when it works, but when you burn your Game 4 starter in Game 3, you’d better win the game.

The 2018 Red Sox have been dominant and resilient all season. Remember all the negativity after losing Game 2 of the ALDS to the Yankees at Fenway? They turned that around with a 16-1 win at Yankee Stadium two days later and never looked back.

Until Game 3 of the World Series.

The historic LA marathon of Friday night/Saturday morning will dissolve into the ether if the Red Sox bounce back and win this thing. But if they somehow lose the 2018 World Series, Game 3 will stand forever as Boston’s baseball’s Buckner moment of the 21st century..


Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com