The Dodgers-Rays World Series was always going to be a matchup of baseball's best lineup and its deepest bullpen—and then the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 4 happened.
It was two-out, walk-off single from Brett Phillips, a pinch runner and defensive replacement who was left off the Championship Series roster, that decided a wild World Series Game 4. The Rays won, 8–7, to even the World Series at two games a piece.
Phillips, a career .202 hitter, ran for Ji-Man Choi in the eighth inning and stayed in to play right field in the ninth. Of course, it was going to come down to him.
Facing closer Kenley Jansen with runners on first and second and the Rays trailing by one, Phillips slashed a line drive to right-center field to bring home the tying run. Los Angeles center fielder Chris Taylor booted the ball, recovered in time to throw home and catch Randy Arozarena between third and home. Except, catcher Will Smith mishandled the relay throw in what looked like an attempted swipe tag; Arozarena scampered home to score the winning run after the ball ricocheted off Smith's mitt.
The Dodgers pulled ahead in the eighth inning when Corey Seager fought off a 95.3-mph four-seamer riding up and in on him and fisted it into shallow left to bring home his team's final run.
The Rays' big three relievers—Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo—all gave up runs Saturday night. All seven of the Dodgers' runs came with two outs; their 57 two-out runs this postseason is a record.
Arozarena’s solo home run in the fourth inning of Game 4 of the World Series was his ninth of the playoffs, the most for any player in a single postseason. It came one inning after Seager crushed his eighth homer of the postseason to briefly tie him with Arozarena—along with Carlos Beltran (2004), Barry Bonds (2002), Nelson Cruz (2011).
Brandon Lowe should never pull the ball again.
With one out in the sixth inning, Lowe smoked a three-run homer to left-center field to give the Rays the lead, 5–4. It was the first lead change of the entire World Series.
Lowe was the best Rays player in the regular season but he has scuffled for most of the playoffs. All three of his World Series hits are home runs, with his first two coming in Tampa Bay’s Game 2 win. In batting practice before that game, Lowe worked on driving the ball to center and left, so, of course, both of his homers that night went in that direction.
“When he gets going the team gets going,” Blake Snell said of Lowe after Game 2. “Don’t let him get hot. I’m telling you, don’t let him get hot. Because when that guy gets hot, he goes off. We’ve seen that before. He looks like he’s ready to go off.”
There are signs of life from Lowe beyond just the three homers. He hit the ball hard twice in Game 4, the first was a lineout to Mookie Betts in the second inning that had an expected batting average of .700, according to Statcast.
At this point I just expect Betts to catch any ball the Rays hit to right field. Yet, it’s still amazing every time he makes the play. Betts didn’t get his best jump on Lowe’s 109.5-mph liner, but he quickly recovered and broke backward in time to make a leaping grab.
Baserunning continues to be a major factor in this World Series.
With two outs in the first inning, Arozarena attempted to steal second base. Initially ruled safe, the Dodgers challenged and a replay review overturned the call and ended the inning. It was the Rays’ second caught stealing and fourth out on the bases in the series.
The Dodgers made two outs on the bases in Game 4, the second of which was actually heads-up baserunning. Joc Pederson stroked a bases-loaded, two-run single in the seventh to give Los Angeles a 6–5 lead, but Cody Bellinger was tagged out trying to advance to third base to end the inning.
Bellinger slowed down when he saw the throw coming into third and made Yandy Díaz run toward him to make the tag instead of trying to slide in safely. Why would he give himself up? The play at third would’ve been close, but if the throw was in time, the tag would’ve been applied before Justin Turner crossed home plate. If that happened, Turner’s run would not have counted, and the Dodgers would not have pulled ahead. Getting to third base wasn’t worth the risk of not getting that second run.
The first Dodgers out on the bases came in the fifth inning, when Max Muncy was tagged out at second base trying to advance after he knocked home Seager with an RBI single to right. It was an awkward play, as the throw home from Rays right fielder Hunter Renfroe bounced a few times and was up the third-base line. Catcher Mike Zunino fired to second, where Muncy slid in safely, popped up and lost his balance. Rays shortstop Willy Adames held the tag as Muncy’s foot detached from the bag for the third out of the inning. In what’s perhaps best described as an obvious pass interference call, Adames wrapped his arm around the stumbling Muncy and appeared to pull him to the ground. The play is non-reviewable, and pleas from Muncy and manager Dave Roberts that Adames’ hug forced him off the base were in vain.
And then, of course, there was the Arozarena mad dash home, thanks to two botched defensive plays and the unlikely walk-off hitter.