Rays stun Dodgers on dramatic finish at plate

    ESPN MLB insider
    Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Tampa Bay Rays won 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 game-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.

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 ball game and then everything that happened afterwards, 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.

The Rays ended that dream in classic fashion.

It had looked grim for them, too, 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 only needed 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’ sixth run of the night scored with two outs and their 15th 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. 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.

For the second consecutive game, Justin Turner homered in the top of the first inning, this one off Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, who lasted 3 1/3 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 posteason with 26.

Los Angeles answered with Seager scoring his second run of the night on a Max Muncy shot in the fifth. Tampa Bay countered with a monstrous Hunter Renfroe home run, which helped chase starter Julio Urias, who went 4 2/3 innings and started the carousel of Dodgers relievers.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts turned to right-hander Pedro Baez to face left-hander Brandon 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 craziest end to a World Series game yet.

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