Rays Stun the Dodgers With a Chaotic Walk-Off Win in Game 4

You could watch the final play of the Tampa Bay Rays’ 8-7 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the World Series dozens of times and probably still struggle to comprehend exactly what occurred. You wouldn’t be alone.

“I don’t know if anything like that has ever happened,” Rays’ center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said after scoring the game-tying run on Brett Phillips’s pinch hit single.

Added second baseman Brandon Lowe: “I’m about to live 15 years shorter. My God, I think I lost 10 years on that last play.”

Rays Manager Kevin Cash described the team’s clubhouse after the win, which evened the series at two games apiece, as “about 40 people that were beside themselves with excitement and all wondering what in the heck just happened.”

Saturday’s game gave this World Series its first white-knuckled, seesawing contest, and that was true even before it ended with the most improbable of comebacks in the most chaotic of fashions.

With Tampa Bay trailing by 7-6 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Phillips came to bat against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Phillips is a light-hitting outfielder, used mainly as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement. His last hit and run batted in came during the regular season on Sept. 25. He is a career .202 hitter.

But Phillips laced Jansen's 1-2 cutter into center field for a single that was probably enough on its own to score Kiermaier, who had gotten on base with a single and moved to second when Randy Arozarena drew a hard-fought walk. But as he charged Phillips's hit, Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor misplayed the ground ball. Arozarena followed Kiermaier, tearing around the bases.

“From the moment of the hit, I needed to score,” Arozarena said.

And the speedy Arozarena might have been able to with ease had he not slipped and fallen after rounding third base. But then the Rays caught another stroke of luck: Dodgers catcher Will Smith whiffed at catching the relay throw from Max Muncy, allowing Arozarena to hop up, dash home and give the Rays an improbable come-from-behind victory.

“When he stumbled, he got up really quick,” Rays third base coach Rodney Linares said. “A lot of credit to him, because he kept his eye on the ball. It was probably a magical moment because he ended up crawling to the plate and stomping on the plate. I kind of blacked out for a minute.”

Added Kiermaier: “The baseball gods were on our side. I was the happiest man on the planet to see Randy score just so the game could be over with. I couldn’t have took anymore from that point on.”

Watching from the dugout, Los Angeles Manager Dave Roberts yanked off his hat in disgust as the Rays celebrated a victory that the Dodgers had seemed poised to claim after multiple comebacks of their own. Phillips, on the other hand, used all of his energy to race around with his arms out like an airplane.

“I kind of had to get out of the doggy pile because I was literally this close to passing out,” he said. “It was just through pure excitement and pure joy.”

That capped a wild night of alternating punches between the teams. There were four lead changes in all, starting with Lowe’s three-run blast in the sixth inning that gave the Rays a 5-4 margin. It was, in fact, the first lead change of this World Series.

Then came three more heart-stopping moments. A half-inning after Lowe’s home run, pinch-hitter Joc Pederson lined a two-run single — which clipped off the top of the glove of a diving Lowe — that pushed the Dodgers ahead, 6-5. Another half inning later, Kiermaier erased Pederson’s work with a game-tying solo blast.

In the top of the eighth, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager drove a single into shallow left field off Rays reliever Nick Anderson that scored Taylor and put the Dodgers ahead again.

All seven of the Dodgers’ runs in Game 4 came with two outs in the inning. No other team since 1994, when M.L.B. first expanded the playoffs to include a wild-card team from each league, has scored as many two-out runs (57) in a single postseason.

But the Rays had a two-out rally of their own still to come, one that turned the game into a wondrous classic and knotted up the World Series.

In the ninth inning, Jansen gave up a one-out single to Kiermaier and issued a two-out walk to Arozarena, who earlier in the game had set a major-league record with his ninth home run of a single postseason.

Up came Phillips, a Tampa-area native who grew up cheering for the Rays during their last World Series appearance in 2008 and dreaming that one day he might deliver in a big moment for them. They acquired him on Aug. 27 in a little-noticed trade with the Kansas City Royals.

With two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning of a World Series game, Phillips seemed like one of the players least likely to produce such a memorable ending with his bat. But he did, notching his first career postseason hit, and then chaos — and a Rays win — ensued.

“Baseball works in mysterious ways,” Kiermaier said.

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