ST. PETERSBURG — Technically, it was the first career walkoff hit for Brett Phillips in the major leagues. But Friday night’s delirious celebration, following the Rays’ heart-pounding 3-2 victory over the New York Mets, looked awfully familiar.
Phillips delivered a two-out, bases-loaded, ninth-inning single, rounded first, then raced into the outfield with arms extended like an airplane, a pack of jubilant teammates in tow. The stakes were obviously higher for Phillips’ once-in-a-lifetime moment in last season’s World Series Game 4 — that highlight-reel sequence was scored as a game-tying hit and walkoff error — but Friday night’s clutch hit was also one to remember.
“It just feels really good helping this team win,” Phillips said.
Phillips wasn’t alone in the heroics that allowed the Rays to snap the Mets’ seven-game winning streak.
Right-hander Tyler Glasnow was “awesome,” in the words of Rays manager Kevin Cash. Glasnow, who struck out 10 and walked just one in a career-high eight innings, retired the first 14 Mets. He came within one out of taking a perfect game into the sixth inning. After allowing an infield single and a two-run homer to Jonathan Villar, Glasnow was suddenly trailing. There were two more singles — four straight hits in the fifth.
Glasnow settled down, steadied himself and finished the eighth.
“He was so efficient early on,” Cash said. “Those four hits (in the fifth) came fast. Good pitchers find a way to recognize what happened and hit that reset button. He got really nasty. He was awesome all game long.”
In the eighth inning, the Rays’ offense finally awakened.
Catcher Mike Zunino’s 450-foot leadoff homer — off Mets left-hander David Peterson, who had retired 17 straight batters — put the Rays on the board. Manuel Margot’s two-out, two-strike RBI double tied it.
Then came the ninth.
With one out, pinch-hitter Brandon Lowe drew a walk off Mets reliever Miguel Castro. Willy Adames singled him to third. Zunino worked a patient at-bat, walking on Castro’s 3-1 offering.
The Mets turned to left-hander Aaron Loup, their fourth pitcher of the night and a bullpen mainstay for the Rays last season. The Rays sent up pinch-hitter Joey Wendle.
“I’ll be honest,” said Phillips, who was on deck. “I was thinking the game was over with Joey Wendle at the plate. I have that much faith in him.”
But Wendle took a called third strike on Loup’s 2-2 pitch.
Phillips was determined for redemption. He had struck out in each of his three previous at-bats, including a second inning swing-and-miss with the bases loaded and an eighth-inning appearance when he failed to execute a bunt attempt.
“Loup is one of the best lefties in the game. I put him up there, regardless of what his numbers are” Phillips said. “I wasn’t trying to be in the batter’s box too long against him.”
Not long at all.
Phillips slapped the first pitch to right, too shallow for Michael Conforto to make a play, and it was over.
“That was awesome,” Glasnow said. “It’s always very entertaining with him (Phillips).”
The Rays continued that high note in the eighth. Following Zunino’s homer, Kevin Padlo smacked a double over the head of centerfielder Kevin Pillar for his first major-league hit. But Phillips struck out and Randy Arozarena’s rocket was speared by Villar at third base.
It was up to Margot, who worked a 2-2 count against reliever Trevor May, then delivered a game-tying RBI double down the leftfield line.
“It was a bunch of good at-bats by all of them (in the eighth),” Cash said.
When Pete Fairbanks held the Mets scoreless in the ninth, the Rays had their game-winning opportunity.
For Phillips, redemption was realized. It wasn’t the World Series, but still plenty of fun.
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