ARLINGTON, Texas — Brett Phillips squatted on the field crying. Randy Arozarena was on the ground, slapping his hands on home plate.
Tears of joy, smacks of celebration — and a crucial, wild win for the scrappy Tampa Bay Rays.
The Dodgers? They were fit to be tied.
With Los Angeles a strike away from taking a three-games-to-one lead in the World Series on Saturday night, the light-hitting Phillips delivered a tying single off Kenley Jansen on a 1-and-2 pitch with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning — and it turned into the game-ending hit when the Dodgers dropped the ball twice, allowing Arozarena to escape a hopeless situation. That gave the Rays an 8-7 victory and tied the Series at two games each.
"Golly, what a special moment," said Phillips, who ran around with his arms outstretched as he was chased by his celebrating teammates after the hit.
Dodgers centerfielder Chris Taylor misplayed Phillips’ single in right-center for an error and chased it down as Kevin Kiermaier scored the tying run. Arozarena kept charging around third base but stumbled and fell well before reaching home. He did a full roll and was able to get up, but he was about 20 feet away from the plate and figured to be an easy out as first baseman Max Muncy’s relay throw headed toward catcher Will Smith. But the throw was to the first-base side of the plate and Smith, trying to make a swipe tag before he caught the ball, didn’t catch it at all. The ball went off his glove and squirted toward the backstop, allowing Arozarena to dive on top of the plate with the winning run. He repeatedly slapped the plate with his right hand as his teammates began to celebrate.
"Randy’s not used to having to run like that. Normally he’s just trotting," Rays manager Kevin Cash said of the rookie, who had hit his postseason-record ninth homer earlier in the game,
"Once I saw Randy slip, I was like ‘Aw, shoot, at least we tied it up,’ and then he missed the ball,’’ Phillips said. "I don’t know what happened, but then he scored. The next thing I know, I’m airplaneing around the outfield and I get dogpiled and here I am."
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said there was no way for Smith to have known Arozarena fell. "He was trying to catch the ball and put a quick tag down. If he’d have known he fell, he probably would have taken his time and made sure he caught it," Turner said. "Not sure what happened in center. That’s uncharacteristic for us."
Jansen came on in the ninth for the Dodgers and struck out Yoshi Tsutsugo before a single by Kiermaier. With two outs, Arozarena drew a full-count walk to set up a wild final play that left Dodgers manager Dave Roberts visibly stunned.
"It’s tough and we got to digest it, but we’ve got to turn the page," Roberts said. "This is certainly a tough one, but I know our guys . . . We’re very resilient."
"You got to stay positive," Jansen said. "I didn’t give up one hard hit. What can I do? Throw the pitches where I wanted to. Credit to the hitters."
A 26-year-old from Seminole, Florida, Phillips was drafted by Houston and played for Milwaukee and Kansas City before Tampa Bay acquired him in August for a minor-leaguer. Touted for his outfield defense, he hasn’t hit much in the majors, ending the regular season with a career .202 average in 153 games.
"What a great team effort on this win. It took almost 28 guys," said Phillips, who was left off the American League Championship Series roster.
"That’s what’s special about this team. Just all come together, our one goal is to win. We don’t rely on one guy. It takes everyone, and man, baseball is fun."
Turner and Corey Seager each had four hits with a solo homer for the Dodgers, who will send three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to the mound on regular rest for Game 5 on Sunday night. He will be opposed by the Rays’ Tyler Glasnow.
Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Lowe and Kiermaier also homered for the Rays, who had gotten all of their runs on long balls until that last play. All of their previous runs came during a frantic stretch in which the teams combined to score in eight consecutive half-innings, a first in World Series history.
A solo homer by Kiermaier tied the score at 6 in the seventh, right after the first two lead changes in the entire World Series.
Lowe went the opposite way for the third time in this Series, with his three-run homer to left in the bottom of the sixth putting the Rays up 5-4. A half-inning later, the second baseman was laying facedown in short rightfield after stumbling as he tried to catch pinch hitter Joc Pederson’s liner, which skimmed off the top of his glove for a two-run single that put the Dodgers ahead 6-5.
That was the first go-ahead pinch-hit in the World Series for the Dodgers since Kirk Gibson’s game-ending homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
Turner became the first player to homer in the first inning of consecutive World Series games. His drive to straightaway center was his 12th career postseason homer, breaking a tie with Hall of Fame center fielder Duke Snider for the most in franchise history. Seager later matched Snider at 11. His homer in the third was his eighth this postseason, which matched the MLB record for all of an inning.
When Arozarena went deep, that left Seager tied with Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran and Barry Bonds for the second-most.