The longest baseball game in postseason history took a toll on Boston Red Sox third baseman Eduardo Nunez.
Perhaps more so than it did for anyone else who played at Dodger Stadium in Game 3 of the World Series, a 3-2 Dodgers walk-off victory that ended in the 18th inning after the calendar had flipped to Saturday and nearly 7 1/2 hours after the game’s first pitch was thrown.
See, Nunez didn’t play the prettiest game. He fell in the batter’s box. He stumbled over the mound. He fell into the seats along the third-base line.
This all happened to Nunez in the final eight innings of a game he might not have seen significant time in if it hadn’t gone to extra innings. But Red Sox manager Alex Cora had emptied his bench when Nunez became a magnet for misfortune in the 13th inning. There was no one else to take his spot.
All Nunez, who has played most of the postseason on a hurt ankle, could do was laugh.
“I’m a little injured but we don’t have any other options,” Nunez said in Spanish. “We have to play. We have to win two more games. … You have to give it your all.”
And did he.
Nunez’s night began without much fanfare. He entered the game in the 10th inning as a pinch-hitter and flew out to center field.
But his luck flipped like he did when he batted with one on base and no outs in 13th inning.
Dodgers reliever Scott Alexander bounced a pitch in the dirt that hit catcher Austin Barnes in the chest protector. Nunez tried to back out of the way as Barnes went after the ricochet. Instead, Nunez fell backward over a bent-over Barnes and landed on his back in the dirt. He was slow to get up and slow to get back in the box for the next pitch as he tested his ankle with a trainer and coach looking on.
When he picked his bat back up, Nunez slapped the next pitch for a ground ball to the mound. As Alexander made a play, Nunez darted down the line and slid head-first into the bag. Eovaldi’s throw was high and trickled into foul territory. A run scored on the play, which was scored an infield single for Nunez, to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
And still Nunez was fine. He laughed with first-base coach Tom Goodwin and was caught by the television microphone attached to Goodwin’s jersey expressing amusement when Alexander kept checking on him at first base as though Nunez were a threat to run.
“They’re scared of me,” Nunez said. “They’re scared of me.”
The Dodgers had no idea how frightening the rest of Nunez’s performance would be.
Nunez sacrificed his whole body to keep the Red Sox in the game. He tumbled into the seats to secure a foul ball in the bottom of the 13th inning — that one at least gifted the Dodgers an extra base on the way to tying the score — and charged in from third base to grab an infield popup for the first out of the 16th inning. In his chase, he tripped over the mound and beached himself like a whale on the grass.
“I was telling him, ‘Get up. We’re tired of watching you roll around in the dirt and then be fine,’” Red Sox starter Rick Porcello said. “And then he hit me in the chin [with his helmet], so I guess I deserved it.”
“Nunie’s rolling around on the field every chance he gets, it seems like,” said Ian Kinsler, whose own mishap in the field cost the Red Sox their 13th-inning lead.
But Nunez’s efforts were appreciated.
Nunez descended into the first-base dugout, batting helmet still affixed to his head after his 13th-inning romp on the field, and got smacked in the face by Porcello. He retaliated with a headbutt.
Baseball had already dealt Nunez a few hard hits. What was one more?