Rays pull off the impossible in win over L.A.

by Gary Shelton on October 25, 2020

in general

Lowe had a three-run homer for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Unbelievable. Incredible. Impossible.

Of all of the comebacks in all of the stadiums, this was the unlikeliest on of them all for the Tampa Bay Rays. At once, it was the hero from nowhere showing up the grandest moment of them all, producing the wackiest, weirdest rally you could ever imagine.

It was far-fetched. It was preposterous. It was beyond belief.

And it was the Rays, at their most resilient.

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Pick your adjective. Just make sure it represents a million-to-one shot, by a team approaching the edge of a cliff. Only then will it capture the miraculous comeback of the Tampa Bay Rays Saturday night. Down to their final strike, the Rays came from behind to win 8-7 over the Los Angeles Dodgers and square the World Series at two games each.

There were a hundred stories twisted into one for the Rays. It was Mr. Impossible, Brett Phillips, the guy running through the outfield grass with his arms spread like an airplane. It was Randy Arozarena, hitting another home run, then falling down on his way to scoring the winning run, only to take advantage of an error. It was Brandon Lowe and his three-run homer. It was Kevin Kiermaier, hitting a homer and scoring the tying run. It was Cash, using his entire roster as his team kept battling from behind.

All of these stories will be told and retold. It comes down to this: One moment, the Rays were a pitch away from being down 3-1. The next, they were celebrating the wildest finish you could imagine.

Start with reserve outfielder Brett Phillips, who was in the game merely because the Rays had used everyone else. Phillips is a nice fielder who runs well, but the one thing he has not done all season is hit. He's a career .202 hitter who, this year, hit .150 for the Rays. He was hitless in two at-bats in the post-season. No, the infielders do not back up when he approaches the plate.

Yet, there was Phillips, with two strikes and two out, lacing a single to right-center. Kiermaier, who had singled earlier in the inning, scored. Outfielder Chris Taylor bobbled the ball, then threw it to cutoff man Max Muncy, who threw it toward catcher Will Smith.

Rays' designated hitter Arozarena, who had walked, had fallen as he rounded third and seemed to be an easy out at the plate. But the ball ticked off Smith's glove, allowing Arozarena to score the winning run.

"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."

One strange thing is that Phillips' play led to the only runs the Rays scored that weren't on the home run.

Odd, but much of talk before the game was that the Rays had turned homer-happy, that they were far too reliant on the long ball for their runs. But after Arozarena, Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Lowe and Kiermaier all went deep Saturday night, that talk might quiet a bit.

"Everyone wants to be up there and be the man," Phillips said. "That’s what was going through my head. Randy has all the opportunity in the world to hit a homer. He lets the guy behind him be the hero. Passing the baton. Let the next guy be the hero."

Phillips, who grew in St. Petersburg, can remember being an eighth grader when the Rays last went to the World Series.

After his hit, he wanted to emulate the airplane, the way he had seen Kiermaier do in a video.But he didn't think of the energy it took, and in the middle of the scrum, "I came close to passing out." He'll remember that, too.

"It didn’t matter that I didn’t have an at bat (for almost two weeks)," Phillips said. "I wouldn’t be on the roster if they didn’t think I could help them win. I’m up fifth (going into the ninth). I have an opportunity to win this game. "

The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead on homers by Justin Turner and Corey Seager. Arozarena hit his ninth homer of the post-season to cut it to 2-1. After the Dodgers scored again, Hunter Renfroe homered to make it 3-2. The Dodgers scored again for a 4-2 lead, but Brandon Lowe hit a three-run homer in the sixth to give the Rays a 5-4 lead.

It wouldn't hold. The Dodgers went up 6-5, but Kiermaier's homer tied it. Still, the Dodgers -- who had 15 hits -- couldn't be held down. They took a 7-6 lead into the ninth.

Give credit to the Rays for their refusal to fade away. Time and again, the Dodgers seemed to take control.

"I'm about to live 15 years shorter," the Rays' Brandon Lowe said. "I think that kind of sums it up. My God, I think I lost 10 years on that last play. God, that's a storybook baseball game if I've ever been a part of one. That was insane.

"He hit the ball, and my heart was pounding a million miles an hour. I saw Randy trip, and my heart stopped. I saw the ball go by him (Will Smith), and my heart started pounding again. It was a wild way to finish a game."

The teams play at pivotal Game Five tonight at 8:08 p.m. Glasnow will start for the Rays against the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.

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