Dodgers suffer stunning 8-7 walk-off loss to Rays in Game 4 of World Series

Jorge Castillo
·6 min read

The ball left Kenley Jansen’s right hand at 92 mph, with movement, over the inside part of the plate to Brett Phillips, a bench player with a .202 career batting average on the Tampa Bay Rays’ World Series roster to play defense and run the bases.

It ricocheted off Phillips’ bat at 82.8 mph into shallow center field at Globe Life Field, ensuring that the Rays, down to their last out, had scored at least one run to tie the Dodgers in Game 4 of the World Series.

Then chaos erupted. The ball bounced off Chris Taylor’s glove, suddenly providing a crack of series-salvaging daylight for the underdog Rays. It came down to Randy Arozarena’s legs.

Arozarena, the Rays’ postseason dynamo, started the play at first base and dashed around third once he saw Taylor’s error. Then, halfway down the baseline, he stumbled and fell. Helmet off and panicked, he started retreating to third base — until he saw catcher Will Smith fail to catch a relay throw at the plate. The ball bounced away, far enough to allow Arozarena to reverse course and reverse this series.

Arozarena slid in headfirst to give the Rays an improbable 8-7 walk-off win on Saturday night. He pounded home plate with his right hand while Phillips was chased down by teammates to celebrate in left field.

“It was like that imperfect storm,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

The Dodgers walked off dazed. Roberts hung over the dugout railing incredulous. Shock painted Jansen’s face. The Dodgers were one out from a commanding three-games-to-one series lead with a chance to win their first World Series since 1988 with Clayton Kershaw on the mound in Game 5 on Sunday. Instead, the series is tied at two.

“Like we said all along, we know it’s not gonna be easy,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. “We know how difficult this is. We have to learn from tonight, make our adjustments we need to make and come back and try to win a game tomorrow.”

The night began with Julio Urías becoming the fourth pitcher born in Mexico to start a World Series game, and he was ready for the moment. The left-hander had five strikeouts — all on fastballs — through three innings. He induced 13 whiffs, 12 on fastballs, setting a career high.

Then Arozarena smashed a 95-mph fastball for a leadoff home run in the fourth inning. It was his ninth home run of the postseason, breaking a tie for the most in a single postseason.

Urías allowed a second solo home run to Hunter Renfroe in the fifth inning before exiting with two outs. He allowed the two runs on four hits. He had nine strikeouts to one walk and threw 80 pitches.

Turner and Corey Seager had given Urías a quick 2-0 lead with solo home runs in the first three innings off left-hander Ryan Yarbrough. Turner’s home run was the 12th of his career in the playoffs, passing Duke Snider, whose postseason career was limited to World Series appearances, for most in franchise history.

A frenzied seesaw battle eventually ensued.

The Rays scored their first six runs with four home runs over four straight innings. Their feast-or-famine reliance on the home run netted them two solo home runs and a two-run deficit in the sixth inning. They hadn’t put more than one runner on base in an inning to that point.

Blake Treinen gave up a leadoff single to Arozarena — his 26th hit of the postseason to match the all-time record. Pinch-hitter Ji-Man Choi worked a walk. Pinch-hitter Austin Meadows struck out and Roberts emerged to take the ball from Treinen with Brandon Lowe up next.

Lowe, the Rays’ top offensive performer in the regular season, bats left-handed. Roberts went with Pedro Báez, a right-hander with reverse splits. Left-handed hitters were five for 34 against Báez this year coming into the game, in large part because of Báez’s changeup — his best pitch and an elite weapon against left-handed batters.

Báez threw three changeups to begin the at-bat to get ahead 1-and-2. But his next two pitches were 95-mph fastballs. Lowe took the first one for a ball. He blasted the second one, on the outside corner, over the wall in left-center field for a go-ahead, three-run home run.

Báez retired the next two batters to get out of the inning. Joc Pederson then delivered a two-out, two-run, pinch-hit single off a diving Lowe’s glove in shallow right field to give the Dodgers the edge again.

The lead was temporary. Roberts said he initially told Báez his night was over but changed his mind after Pederson’s hit. Then he watched Báez yield a solo home run to Kevin Kiermaier, another left-handed hitter, on a changeup.

“I take blame for having him go back out,” Roberts said of Báez.

Seager has blasted pitches all over the field all October long, into the gaps and over the wall. Line drive after line drive. He has been the Dodgers’ metronome sandwiched between their superstar acquisition and steady leader. Never has the shortstop, finally healthy again, been more locked in.

But none of those missiles, not any of the eight home runs or any of the four doubles he’s produced this postseason, were bigger than the flare single he muscled in the eighth inning.

The ball traveled 66.3 mph off his bat, but it found a landing spot just over Rays shortstop Willy Adames’ outstretched glove in shallow left-center field. By the time Rays left fielder Meadows got to it, Taylor was racing around from second base to give the Dodgers the lead.

The hit fittingly came with two outs. The Dodgers scored all seven of their runs Saturday with two outs, increasing their postseason record of two-out runs to 57. They needed at least one more.

Cody Bellinger would’ve been in center field in the ninth inning, but back tightness forced the Dodgers to make a late lineup change, moving Bellinger to designated hitter and AJ Pollock to center field. Taylor shifted over from left field after Pederson pinch-hit for Pollock and stayed in the game to play left.

So that was the configuration when the bullpen door swung open for Jansen, the maligned veteran closer, with the Rays’ Nos. 8 and 9 hitters due up. He struck out pinch-hitter Yoshi Tsutsugo to start the inning before Kiermaier lofted a broken-bat flare to shallow right field for a hit. After Joey Wendle smashed a line drive right at Pederson, Arozarena worked a walk to bring up Phillips.

Phillips had entered the game an inning earlier as a pinch-runner. He was left stranded at second base and stayed in the game to play right field. He had two plate appearances all postseason — and none in 18 days. His last hit had come Sept. 25 in the Rays’ 58th regular season game.

A month later, he was the Rays’ last hope in one of the biggest games in franchise history. He delivered and, with some help, left the Dodgers stunned and suddenly in an even series.

"The baseball gods were on our side,” Kiermaier said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.