Tampa Bay Rays stun Dodgers in Game 4 on dramatic finish at plate
Jeff Passan- ESPN
Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”
ESPN MLB insider
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Tampa Bay Rays won Saturday night’s Game 4 on one of the wildest finishes in World Series history, capitalizing on a disastrous error by the Los Angeles Dodgers to secure an 8-7 come-from-behind victory and tie the series at 2-2.
With two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning, Brett Phillips, a seldom-used outfielder, laced a single to center field off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, bringing in the tying run.
That’s when things got wild.
Center fielder Chris Taylor kicked the ball, and Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena, who started on first, never stopped running. Taylor threw the ball to first baseman Max Muncy, who relayed it to catcher Will Smith. Arozarena had stumbled around third and was going to be out by 30 feet — until Smith dropped the ball and the ricochet allowed Arozarena to dive home and prompt a celebration that ended with the Rays running gleefully into the outfield.
The 116th World Series entered Saturday without a signature game on its ledger. Safe to say after Game 4, that’s no longer the case.
“Once I saw Randy slip, I was like, ‘Aw, shoot, at least we tied it up,’ and then [Smith] 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.”
Rays manager Kevin Cash tried to describe his emotions as he watched the final play at the plate unravel.
“The moment the ball left Phillips’ bat, we knew we had a tie ballgame, and then everything that happened afterward, Randy’s not used to having to run like that,” Cash said. “Normally he’s used to just trotting. So it threw him off for a little bit getting tripped up there between third and home. But Phillips, man, give that guy a lot of credit. I don’t know when the last time he got an at-bat was. Pretty impressive what he just did against one of the game’s best closers.
“Happened so fast, I didn’t know what to do. Gave a bunch of hugs, just in disbelief.”
The emotional pendulum swung wildly in Game 4, with the Dodgers overcoming a pair of blown leads by the same relief pitcher to put themselves in a position for Clayton Kershaw, the fulcrum of the team that has won eight consecutive division titles but lost in its two previous World Series tries, to secure a title in his Game 5 start Sunday.
The Rays ended that dream in classic fashion — on a wild sequence that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts described as “an unperfect storm.”
“I’m about to live 15 years shorter,” the Rays’ Brandon Lowe said. “I think that kind of sums it up. My God, I think I lost 10 years on that last play. God, that’s a storybook baseball game if I’ve ever been a part of one. That was insane.”
On the final play, only Taylor was charged with an error. Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said there was no way for 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 center. That’s uncharacteristic for us.”
It had looked grim for the Rays, with blown leads galore all game, thanks to the teams going blow for blow and scoring in eight consecutive half-innings, a World Series record.
With the score tied at 6-6 going into the eighth, Taylor led off with a double off Rays reliever Nick Anderson. A failed sacrifice and groundout later, Anderson needed only to retire Corey Seager to escape the inning. Anderson was not the first pitcher to try and fail on this night or this postseason. Seager looped a single into center field, scoring Taylor and pushing the Dodgers ahead 7-6.
It was the Dodgers’ seventh run of the night scored with two outs and their 17th of the series.
Los Angeles’ bullpen, so permeable in the prior innings, attempted to go into lockdown mode over the final two. After Adam Kolarek secured the first two outs in the eighth, rookie Brusdar Graterol punctuated the third out with his signature celebration.
In the ninth, Jansen tried to work around a single to Kevin Kiermaier and walk to Arozarena. With two outs, on a 1-2 count against Phillips, who hit .196 in the regular season and was 0-for-2 in the playoffs this year, Jansen left a cutter over the plate that Phillips rapped into center.
And thus ended a chaotic game that lasted 4 hours, 10 minutes, featured the series’ first lead changes and enraptured the crowd of 11,441 at Globe Life Field.
Jansen, when asked afterward if the Dodgers had beaten themselves in the ninth, said he didn’t feel that way, explaining that he had given up “soft contact” and describing Phillips’ winning hit as “another grenade single.”
“I didn’t give up one hard hit — I mean, what can I do?” Jansen said. “Can’t do anything with that. I threw the pitches where I wanted to. Credit to the hitters — like I said, a broken-bat single, a bloop single. You can’t, you can’t. Ain’t no time to hang our hats. Tomorrow is another day.”
Jansen added, “Can’t let this beat you, can’t let this beat us. Like I said, we have been here before. Have to let it go, regroup quickly, come in and play baseball tomorrow. We know who we are, we know what we are capable of. And Tampa played hard today. We can’t let this beat us or beat ourselves.”
For the second consecutive game, Turner homered in the top of the first inning, this one off Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, who lasted 3⅓ innings until Tampa Bay turned the game over to its bullpen. By then, the Dodgers held a 2-0 lead, with Seager hitting his record-tying eighth home run this postseason.
An inning later, Arozarena, the rookie outfielder, broke that tie, hammering his ninth of the postseason and third of the World Series to halve the Dodgers’ lead. Arozarena also tied Pablo Sandoval for the most hits in a single postseason with 26.
Los Angeles answered with Seager scoring his second run of the night on a Muncy shot in the fifth. Tampa Bay countered with a monstrous Hunter Renfroe home run, which helped chase starter Julio Urias, who went 4⅔ innings and started the carousel of Dodgers relievers.
Roberts turned to right-hander Pedro Baez to face the left-handed Lowe with two on in the bottom of the sixth, and Lowe proceeded to smash his third opposite-field home run of the series, putting the Rays ahead 5-4.
The lead didn’t last long. Seager singled and Turner doubled — both went 4-for-5 on the night — and, after a pair of strikeouts and an intentional walk to load the bases, Joc Pederson smashed a single off the glove of the diving, shifted Lowe to score a pair. It was 6-5 Dodgers.
That lead didn’t last long, either. Baez, still in the game, gave up a no-doubt home run to Kiermaier, setting up the Seager heroics, which set up the Phillips heroics, which set up perhaps the wildest end to a World Series game yet.
“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.”