Brett Phillips squatted on the field crying, Randy Arozarena sprawled in the dirt pounding his hands on home plate.
Tears of joy, smacks of celebration — and a crucial, crazy win for the scrappy Tampa Bay Rays.
In one of the wildest World Series finishes ever, the light-hitting Phillips delivered a tying single off Kenley Jansen with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning that turned into the game-ending hit when the Los Angeles Dodgers dropped the ball twice, allowing Arozarena to scramble home and lifting the Rays to an 8-7 victory Saturday night that suddenly evened things at two games each.
“Golly, what a special moment,” Phillips said from Arlington, Texas.
The October moment pic.twitter.com/5B68Bwfxpp
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 25, 2020
The Dodgers led 7-6 when centre-fielder Chris Taylor misplayed Phillips’ ball in right-centre for an error and chased it down while Kevin Kiermaier scored the tying run. Arozarena kept charging around third base but stumbled and fell well before reaching home.
He was able to get up and score when catcher Will Smith looked up too early and missed the relay throw, letting it squirt toward the backstop while Arozarena dived on top of the plate.
“Once I saw Randy slip, I was like ‘Aw, shoot, at least we tied it up,’ and then he missed the ball,” said Phillips, who had entered the game as a pinch-runner in the eighth. “I don’t know what happened, but then he scored. The next thing I know, I’m airplane-ing around the outfield and I get dogpiled and here I am.”
Arozarena said he was trying to retreat to third after tumbling over.
“We had already tied the game. I was trying to get into a rundown,” Arozarena said through a translator. “Then obviously once the ball got past him, I turned around and scored.”
Jansen came on in the ninth for the Dodgers and struck out Yoshi Tsutsugo before a broken-bat single by Kiermaier, the longest-tenured Rays player. Arozarena, the rookie who earlier hit his post-season record ninth homer, drew a two-out, full-count walk to set up the improbable final play.
“You got to stay positive,” Jansen said. “I didn’t give up one hard hit. What can I do? Throw the pitches where I wanted to. Credit to the hitters.”
Phillips was left off the American League Championship Series roster but shined as a cheerleader, writing up phony scouting reports on a clipboard touting Arozarena before dancing against him in battles after the team locked up the AL pennant.
“What a great team effort on this win. It took almost 28 guys,” Phillips said. “That’s what special about this team. Just all come together, our one goal is to win. We don’t rely on one guy. It takes everyone, and man, baseball is fun.”
Kershaw set for Game 5
Corey Seager and Justin Turner both had four hits with a solo homer for the Dodgers, who nearly went into Game 5 on Sunday night with a 3-1 series lead. They’ll send three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to the mound on regular rest after winning Game 1 on Tuesday night.
Cody Bellinger, a Gold Glove finalist in centre field, was switched to designated hitter just over an hour before the game because of back stiffness, trading places with AJ Pollock in the lineup. Taylor, also a second baseman, started in left field and moved to centre after Joc Pederson pinch-hit for Pollock in the seventh and then took over in left. Only Taylor was charged with an error on the final play.
Turner said there was no way for Dodgers catcher Smith to have known Arozarena fell.
“He was trying to catch the ball and put a quick tag down. If he’d have known he fell, he probably would have taken his time and made sure he caught it,” Turner said. “Not sure what happened in centre. That’s uncharacteristic for us.”
Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Lowe and Kiermaier also homered for the Rays, who had recorded their runs on long balls until that last play. Those homers came during a frantic stretch when the teams combined to score in eight consecutive half-innings, a first in World Series history.
A solo homer by Kiermaier, with the Rays since 2013, tied the game 6-6 in the seventh, right after the first two lead changes in this entire World Series.
Lowe went deep the opposite way for the third time in this Series, his three-run homer to left in the bottom of the sixth putting the Rays up 5-4. A half-inning later, the second baseman was laying face down in short right field after his diving attempt to catch Pederson’s liner, which skimmed off the top of his glove for a two-run single that put L.A. back ahead.
That was the first go-ahead pinch-hit in the World Series for L.A. since Kirk Gibson’s game-ending homer in Game 1 in 1988.
This finish had a drastically different feeling for the Dodgers.
“It’s tough and we got to digest it, but we’ve got to turn the page,” manager Dave Roberts said. “This is certainly a tough one, but I know our guys. … We’re very resilient.”
Stephen Hawkins/The Associated Press via CBC