ARLINGTON, Tex. — In the chaos and chill of deepest Saturday night, Randy Arozarena lay face-down in the dirt at Globe Life Field. His Tampa Bay Rays teammates were sprinting out somewhere else, celebrating the wildest win any of them had likely ever witnessed, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, stunned, were slouching off the field. Arozarena couldn’t stop drumming his right hand on home plate — thump, thump — like a fallen fighter tapping out in defeat.
But on his face was a crazed, dumbstruck smile that said both, “I don’t know what just happened” and “It was amazing.” It was the face of anyone who witnessed the end of Game 4 of the World Series at Globe Life Field —with the unfortunate exception of the Dodgers.
Arozarena’s mad dash around the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday gave the Rays an improbable and darn-near inexplicable 8-7 victory in Game 4, knotting the best-of-seven series at two games apiece, with Game 5 set for Sunday night.
It came at the end of Brett Phillips’s two-out single into right-center field off Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen — but that hardly does justice to what occurred between Phillips’s swing and Arozarena’s touching of home plate with the winning run, as the Dodgers’ defense botched the play to all creation. Put it this way: some 15 minutes after the game, the official scorers were still sorting through the details to get the scoring right: single, one RBI, error on Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
This is one attempt to describe it: Phillips came to the plate with two outs and two on. Arozarena was the trailing runner at first. On a 1-2 cutter from Jansen, Phillips dropped a soft single into right-center, where Taylor went to scoop it up. But Taylor booted the ball. He had no chance to get the lead runner anyway, but now Arozarena rounded third and dashed for home — only to stumble and fall halfway there.
“As soon as the ball was hit,” Arozarena said, “I was thinking score.”
The Dodgers still appeared to have Arozarena nailed for the third out. Extra innings were in the makings. But Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy cut off Taylor’s throw — which had Arozarena retreating as if prepared to take his chances in a rundown — and threw wide of home plate, with catcher Will Smith unable to catch the throw. Jansen, whose job it was to back up home plate precisely for an instant like this, failed to do so.
Arozarena reversed course again, this time barreling home and finishing it off with a head-first slide into the plate.
And that’s where he remained as the rest of the team spilled out of the dugout in search of Phillips, who had wound up in the expanse of grass in left-center field. Arozarena slammed his hand on the plate several times, then eased up into a rhythmic tap: thump, thump, thump. Phillips was eventually located, and … well, let him tell the rest.
“Once I saw Randy slip, I said, ‘Oh, shoot, at least we tied it up,’ ” Phillips said on the Fox Sports telecast. “And then [Taylor] missed the ball. I don’t know what happened. But then [Arozarena] scored, and the next thing I know I’m airplaning around the outfield, and I get dogpiled.”
In the other dugout, at the top step, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts hung on the rail and looked on, dumbfounded — then turned away in disgust as the winning run crossed. When the ball was struck, like most rational people, he expected the Rays to score one run and tie the game.
“I’m thinking through the 10th inning,” Roberts said. “And then it spun out right there. I wasn’t prepared for a walk off right there.”
If it were only the ninth inning that pushed Game 4 to the heights of drama and tragicomedy, that would be one thing. But the last four innings Saturday night packed an autumn’s worth of massive swings, both of lumber and momentum.
Thirty-two innings into the World Series, there had still not been a single lead change.
In the 33rd, everything changed. In the 34th, it changed again. By the 36th, it was begging for mercy.
The Dodgers had taken the lead back from the Rays in the eighth on Corey Seager’s fisted, two-out flare into shallow left-center off Rays bullpen ace Nick Anderson to bring around Taylor who had doubled to lead off the inning — the Dodgers’ 57th two-out run of this postseason, a record. Seager went 4 for 5 with a homer and two RBI. A socially distanced, heavily pro-Dodgers crowd of 11,441, bundled against the chill of a 57-degree night, erupted.
The first 32 innings of this World Series not only hadn’t seen a lead change — it hadn’t produced anything even vaguely resembling a signature moment. And then, beginning with the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday night, such moments seemed to arrive with alarming frequency, each one topping the last.
A three-run homer by Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe off Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez in the sixth turned a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 Tampa Bay lead.
But a half-inning later, with the bases loaded, Dodgers pinch-hitter Joc Pederson lined a two-out single off the glove of Lowe and into right field, scoring two runs and flipping the lead back to the Dodgers, 6-5.
The last Dodgers pinch hitter to smack a go-ahead hit in a World Series game? Kirk Gibson in 1988. Yes, that hit.
The next half-inning, the bottom of the seventh, brought another lightning strike — a solo homer to right from Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier off Baez. This one didn’t result in a lead change, but it was now 6-6.
Roberts’s decision to keep Baez in the game to give up a go-ahead homer and a game-tying one in back-to-back innings is certain to be examined and scrutinized for a long time even if the Dodgers win the series — and hung around his neck forever if they lose.
Roberts acknowledged his blame for that decision, saying he initially told Baez he was taking him out after the sixth — only to change his mind and leave him in after the Dodgers took the lead in the seventh.
By the time Seager’s soft single off Anderson landed in the top of the eighth and plated the Dodgers’ seventh run, the teams had scored at least one run in eight consecutive half-innings. You got the feeling the next pitching staff to put up a zero would win.
That, as it turned out, would be the Dodgers, who blanked the Rays in the bottom of the eighth. But that was only a breather. The top of the ninth would be the last half-inning where everything still made sense.
By the end of Game 4, the World Series was suddenly tied, the mind was still swirling amid the many layers of chaos that were revealed in the final play, and if you couldn’t necessarily hear the tapping — thump, thump, thump — you could at least feel it. It was your heart.
Dave Sheinin reported this story from Arlington, Tex. The live updates below were reported by Scott Allen from Washington.
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