ARLINGTON, Texas – 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.
The Dodgers led 7-6 when center fielder Chris Taylor misplayed Phillips' ball in right-center 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 postseason 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.”
A 26-year-old from Seminole, Florida, Phillips was drafted by Houston and played for Milwaukee and Kansas City before being acquired by the Rays, his hometown team, in August for a minor leaguer. Touted for his outfield defense and speed, he hasn’t hit much in the majors, ending the regular season with a career .202 average in 153 games.
He had been 0 for 2 in the postseason and hadn’t batted since Game 3 of the AL Division Series on Oct. 7. His last hit had been a month ago, on Sept. 25.
Phillips was left off the AL 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.”
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 NL 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 center 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 center 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 center. That’s uncharacteristic for us.”
Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Lowe and Kiermaier also homered for the Rays, who had gotten all of 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 at 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 facedown 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 LA back ahead.
That was the first go-ahead pinch-hit in the World Series for LA 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.”
FOR THE RECORD
John Curtiss, the seventh Tampa Bay pitcher, worked the final 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the win. Starter Ryan Yarbrough, who pitched in relief in Game 1, allowed the Turner and Seager homers in his 3 1/3 innings. It was the sixth consecutive World Series game for the Rays that their starter didn't finish at least five innings. That goes back to the final two Series games when they lost to Philadelphia in five games in 2008. ... The only runs allowed by Dodgers starter Julio Urias in his 4 2/3 innings were the solo homers to Arozarena and Renfroe.
Turner became the first player to homer in the first inning of consecutive World Series games. His drive to straightaway center was his 12th career postseason homer, breaking a tie with Hall of Fame center fielder Duke Snider for the most in franchise history. Seager later matched Snider at 11, his homer in the third being his eighth this postseason to match the MLB record for all of an inning.
When Arozarena went deep, that left Seager tied with Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran and Barry Bonds for the second-most.
Dodgers: Kershaw is the franchise leader with his 12 postseason wins — and 12 postseason losses. The left-hander from nearby Dallas struck out six while allowing one run and two hits over six innings to beat the Rays in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
Rays: RHP Tyler Glasnow has allowed 10 runs over 10 1/3 innings his last two starts, including Game 1 against the Dodgers when the six runs allowed in 4 1/3 innings by the right-hander were his most given up since September 2018.
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