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Wild finish gives Rays 8-7 walkoff win

Brett Phillips’ single and a Dodgers error leaves the World Series tied 2-2 with Game 5 on Sunday.
The Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier (39) chases Brett Phillips (14) as they celebrate Phillips' walk-off single for the the 8-7 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday.
The Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier (39) chases Brett Phillips (14) as they celebrate Phillips' walk-off single for the the 8-7 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Oct. 25, 2020|Updated Oct. 25, 2020

ARLINGTON, Texas — You have to start at the end.

Randy Arozarena, getting up after falling down rounding third, sliding headfirst into home, pounding the plate with his right hand after scoring the winning run.

Then how it was set up.

Brett Phillips, the Seminole kid who hasn’t played much since being acquired in an August trade, coming up to the plate with his Rays down by one in the ninth inning. Two on, down to his last strike against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, getting his first hit in a month. The single, coupled with the Dodgers' defensive mistakes, scored Kevin Kiermaier and Arozarena.

And, most of all, what it meant.

One of the Rays' wildest wins ever, an 8-7 walkoff, was also one of their most significant ever, pulling them even in the World Series at two games apiece, and giving them the momentum to pull ahead. Game 5 is tonight.

“I think it just speaks volumes, the loudest volumes about our club,” manager Kevin Cash said, “and what these guys can accomplish, as a group, because everybody plays a massive role.”

Brandon Lowe, who had a hand in two of the biggest plays — one good and one bad — during the back and forth that led up to the final inning said it took 10, maybe 15 years off his life. Kiermaier, who scored the tying run, hadn’t caught his breath 40 minutes after the game ended. Cash said he didn’t know what to do, just “gave a bunch of hugs in disbelief.” Phillips nearly passed out during the post-game celebration after he did an airplane run through the outfield.

“Truly incredible,” Kiermaier said. "Off the bat I knew it was going to get down, I knew I was going to score. I was not getting thrown out there no matter what. I crossed home plate and I turned around just to see what’s going on, and I see Randy, get snipered out of nowhere, falling, and I’m just sitting here thinking, ‘Oh no.’

"And he gets up and then they threw it away or however you want to describe that and then Randy was the happiest man on the planet, coming back in after falling in a huge situation. But the baseball gods were on our side. ...

“I don’t know if anything like that has ever happened, especially in the World Series. I don’t know if we’ll see it ever again but we’re all part of it and what an incredible moment to be a part of it.”

It was only the third Series game won on a walkoff by a team trailing down to its final out. The Dodgers won the other two, Game 1 in 1988 against Oakland (Kirk Gibson) and Game 4 in 1947 against the Yankees (Cookie Lavagetto).

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On a day that started with the Rays having a ceremonial first pitch by Dan Johnson, an unlikely hero with huge home runs in 2008 and 2011, Phillips was somewhat of an appropriate hero.

“I feel thankful and blessed the opportunity presented itself for myself,” Phillips said.

“This is my hometown team I grew up, 2008 when these guys were in the World Series, I was in eighth grade watching them. And now to be a part of it helping these guys win a World Series game is special.”

How the game got to the ninth was dramatic enough, with the teams scoring in a record eight consecutive half innings, including Arozarena hitting his major-league record ninth homer of the postseason.

And the finish even better.

The Dodgers led 7-6 as pinch-hitter Yoshi Tsutsugo struck out to start the Rays ninth. Kiermaier dropped a broken bat single into center, getting the tying run on. Joey Wendle drove a ball to left but it was run down.

Arozarena had a chance, but waited patiently through seven pitches and took a walk.

That brought up Phillips, who had entered the game as a pinch-runner for Ji-Man Choi in the eighth then played right as Hunter Renfroe went to first, the Rays having used a record-tying 21 players.

So what if Phillips hadn’t had an at-bat since Oct. 7, in Game 3 against the Yankees, or a hit since Sept. 25, or a career .202 average.

“Everyone in that situation wants to be up there and be the man, and that’s exactly what was going through my head,” Phillips said. “Obviously Randy has all the potential in the world to to win that game for us by hitting a homer. He’s proven that. But he takes a great at-bat, and lays off some really tough pitches and lets the guy behind him be the hero.”

Phillips got down 1-2 in the count without swinging the bat, then with the Rays one strike from a 3-1 Series deficit, lined a ball to the right of center.

Centerfielder Chris Taylor bobbled the ball, which not only made it for sure that Kiermaier scored the tying run, but prompted third-base coach Rodney Linares to send Arozarena.

That seemed like a good idea until Arozarena lost his footing halfway home and went down.

"Randy’s not used to having to run like that,: Cash cracked. “Normally he’s just trotting.”

Arozarena said he knew all was not lost when he tripped since Kiermaier had scored to tie the score, so when he got up he initially headed back to third. But once catcher Will Smith whiffed on Max Muncy’s relay throw, Arozarena reversed direction, and headed back to the plate.

“We needed something to go our way tonight,” Cash said, “and it did.”

Other game notables:

• The Dodgers had taken the early lead with two solo homers with two outs off Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, Justin Turner in the first on a 2-0 cutter, Corey Seager in the third on a 2-2 curveball.

That was Seager’s eighth of the postseason, which tied him for the major-league record, but only until Arozarena came up in the fourth and hit his ninth, in 18 postseason games, to get the Rays within 2-1.

• The Dodgers extended the lead to 3-1 in the fifth when Max Muncy singled in Seager with two outs as Hunter Renfroe’s throw wasn’t in time. Catcher Mike Zunino fired to second, and Muncy was called out as he slid off the base and into Willy Adames, who wisely kept the tag, and a bit of a bear hug, on him.

Renfroe made up for the throw with a blast to leftfield leading off the fifth, 444 feet at an exit velocity of 111.4 mph to cut the Dodgers' lead to 3-2.

• With the Dodgers up 4-2 thanks to a two-out double from Kike Hernandez, the sixth looked to be the key sequence as the Rays got the big hit they have been searching for for weeks.

Arozarena led off with a single, tying Pablo Sandoval’s overall record for a postseason with 26, and breaking the mark for three-hit games with his fifth. A Ji-Man Choi pinch-walk, and an out later, Lowe delivered a huge blow, a three-run homer off Pedro Baez. After hitting two homers in Game 2, Lowe had gone quiet again but it seemed a good sign he delivered the shot to left-center that gave the Rays a 5-4 lead.

Especially how it did it, stepping out of the box to tell himself to try to go the other way. “There’s not part of me that was trying to hit that ball out,” he said.

• Lowe’s lowest moment came in the next inning. Lefty Aaron Loup allowed a single and a double to start the seventh, then got one out. Nick Anderson came on to get the second out, then intentionally walked Bellinger to load the bases. That strategy failed when pinch-hitter Joc Pederson lined a ball that Lowe, shifted from second to shallow right, made a full dive for but just missed as the ball ticked off his glove, with two runs scoring.

“That play was extremely crushing for me, especially because it hit my glove,” Lowe said. “Full extension, whatever, people can make the excuses and stuff like that, nothing will take me from thinking I should have reeled that ball in.”

• There was more drama to come. Kiermaier homered with one out in the seventh off Baez to re-tie the score 6-6. Then the relentless Dodgers went back ahead in the eighth. A leadoff double by Taylor, then another two-out hits, an opposite-field bloop single by Seager made it 7-6.

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