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Rays win wild one over Tigers as Brett Phillips homers in 10th

Yandy Diaz and Brandon Lowe play key roles in getting Tampa Bay to the 10th, then Phillips delivers and puts on a show as magic number falls to six.
Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop can only look on as the Rays' Brett Phillips does his airplane celebration after his walkoff homer in the 10th Friday.
Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop can only look on as the Rays' Brett Phillips does his airplane celebration after his walkoff homer in the 10th Friday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Sep. 18
Updated Sep. 18

ST. PETERSBURG — The moment Brett Phillips hit the ball would have been thrilling enough, his three-run homer in the 10th capping a wild Friday night in which the Rays rallied for three runs in the ninth to tie, then again in the extra inning to beat the Tigers 7-4.

But because this is Phillips, the Seminole native with a passion for playing in his hometown and a flair for the dramatic, he also put on a show.

First he tossed his bat 20-some feet in the air. As he rounded the bases, he broke out the airplane run he made famous dashing through the outfield following his 2020 World Series Game 4 heroics. He jumped high before touching the plate and being mobbed by teammates. Then he leapt onto the backstop behind home plate and grabbed the netting to salute the rollicking Tropicana Field crowd of 16.451.

“That’s just one of those moments that, you don’t know what you’re doing,’’ Phillips said. “You’re just celebrating. You’re excited. You’re happy.’’

The celebration at home plate was a wild one. Second baseman Brandon Lowe, who also had a huge hand in the win, said it had to be with Phillips the star, since he normally leads the celebrations.

“You can’t let the guy that hit it celebrate harder than everybody else,’’ Lowe said. “Obviously he did, jumping up on the backstop and everything like that, but when he brings that kind of energy, you feed off of it, and it hypes everybody else up.’’

For a night that didn’t start well, the Rays ended up with lots of reasons to be happy. They improved their American League-best record to 92-56, maintained their 8½-game lead in the East, and reduced their magic numbers to clinch a playoff berth and the division title to six, with both quite possible next week at home..

Down 4-1, and not looking good in the process, the Rays rallied impressively for three runs in the ninth.

Manuel Margot got them started, lining a ball off reliever Gregory Soto for an infield single. Francisco Mejia walked, and Lowe singled to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Yandy Diaz prevailed in the matchup with Tigers righty Michael Fulmer, singling to center to score two. Lowe moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored on Randy Arozarena’s sac fly to tie it at 4.

Lowe made a huge play in the top of the 10th — diving to his left and firing to first — to save a run and keep the Rays, who were just 1-6 in home extra-inning games, even. “A Gold Glove play,’’ manager Kevin Cash said.

With Joey Wendle on second to start the 10th, rookie Taylor Walls drew a four-pitch walk from Bryan Garcia. Phillips, who has had several clutch hits for the Rays this season, said Cash told him on his way to the plate to be sure to check for a bunt sign.

“I personally took offense to that in my head,’’ Phillips, wearing the “Baseball is fun” T-shirt he is selling, said with a laugh. “Obviously if he wanted me to bunt, I was going to bunt there. Luckily, I appreciate the faith Cashy had in me to swing.’’

That he did, taking a mighty whack at a 3-1 sinker, launching it 409 feet for his first career walkoff homer to get the party started.

Phillips said he did the airplane run because some kids were hollering at him to do so, and he jumped on the backstop to acknowledge the fans, “Just to let this city know, ‘Hey, we hear you. Thanks for coming out tonight. We appreciate you. We love you.’ ‘’

Phillips definitely earned the star turn.

“There’s no doubt, Philly has been quite the player for us,’’ Cash said. “As he would say, ‘Baseball is fun.’ It’s definitely fun when you’re making plays and getting hits like that.’’

Rays’ magic numbers

6 To make American League playoffs

6 To win East Division

Combination of wins by the Rays and losses by the No. 3 team in wild-card field (Blue Jays) and the second-place team in division (Red Sox).

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