Brett Phillips crouched down on the pitch crying, Randy Arozarena sprawled out in the dirt clapping his hands on the plate.
Tears of joy, festive scents – and a crucial and insane victory for the Tampa Bay Rays.
In one of the craziest finishes of the World Series, the hitting Phillips delivered a single tied with Kenley Jansen with two strikeouts down the ninth inning which turned into the end of game shot when the Los Angeles Dodgers dropped the ball twice, allowing Arozarena to come home and carry the Rays to an 8-7 victory on Saturday night that suddenly evened things at two games apiece.
“Golly, what a special moment,” Phillips said.
The Dodgers were leading 7-6 when center fielder Chris Taylor misplayed Phillips’ right center ball for a mistake and chased it down while Kevin Kiermaier scored the tying point. Arozarena continued to charge around third base but tripped and fell long before making it home.
He was able to get up and score when wide receiver Will Smith looked up too early and missed the throw, leaving him squirting towards the safety net as Arozarena dove over home plate.
“Once I saw Randy slide, I was like ‘Aw, pull up, at least we tied him up’ and then he missed the ball,” said Phillips, who had entered the game as eighth pinch runner. “I don’t know what happened, but then he scored. Next thing I know, I’m on a plane around the outfield and dragged in a peloton and here I am.
Jansen came in ninth for the Dodgers and knocked out Yoshi Tsutsugo before a single from Kiermaier, the Rays’ oldest player. Arozarena, the rookie who broke his Ninth Home playoff record, netted a two-out goal to set up the unlikely final game.
“You have to stay positive,” Jansen said. “I didn’t give up on a hard blow. What can I do? Throw the locations where I wanted. Tribute to the hitters. “
The 26-year-old from Seminole, Fla., Was drafted by Houston and played for Milwaukee and Kansas City before being acquired by the Rays, his home team, in August for a minor league. Lauded for his defense and off-field speed, he didn’t hit much in the majors, finishing the regular season with a career average of 0.202 in 153 games.
He was 0-2 in the playoffs and hadn’t beaten since Game 3 of the AL Division Series on October 7. His last blow took place a month ago, on September 25.
Phillips was ruled out of the AL Championship Series roster but shone as a cheerleader, writing fake scout reports on a clipboard touting Arozarena before dancing against him in battles after the team has locked the AL pennant
“What a great team effort on this victory. It took almost 28 guys, ”Phillips said. “This is the particularity of this team. Just all together, our only goal is to win. We don’t rely on just one guy. It takes everyone, and man, baseball is fun.
Corey Seager and Justin Turner both had four single homerun hits for the Dodgers, who came close to making Game 5 on Sunday night with a 3-1 lead in the series. They will send Clayton Kershaw, three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, to the mound at regular rest after winning the opener on Tuesday night.
Gold Glove runner-up Cody Bellinger was replaced by the designated hitter just over an hour before the game due to back stiffness, swapping places with AJ Pollock in the roster. Taylor, also a second baseman, started in left field and moved to center after Joc Pederson pinch struck for Pollock in the seventh and then took over on the left. Only Taylor was charged with an error on the end game.
Turner said there was no way Dodgers wide receiver Smith could have known Arozarena had fallen.
“He was trying to catch the ball and put on a quick tag. If he had known he had fallen, he probably would have taken his time and made sure he caught it, ”Turner said. “I don’t know what happened at the center. This does not characterize us. “
Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Lowe and Kiermaier also made a homer for the Rays, who had all their points on long balls until this last game. The home runs came in a frenzied streak as the teams combined to score in eight consecutive half-innings, a first in World Series history.
A solo homerun by Kiermaier, with the Rays since 2013, tied the game at 6 in the seventh, just after the first two lead changes of this entire World Series.
Lowe went deep in the opposite direction for the third time in this series, his three-run homer left down the Rays’ sixth place up 5-4. Half an inning later, the second baseman was lying face down in short right field after his dive attempt to catch Pederson’s doubler, who grazed the top of his glove for a two-run single that allowed LA to regain the advantage.
It was the first World Series free kick for LA since Kirk Gibson’s late-game homerun in Game One in 1988.
This finish had a radically different feeling for the Dodgers.
“It’s tough and we have to digest it, but we have to turn the page,” said manager Dave Roberts. “It’s definitely tough, but I know our guys. … We are very resilient.